By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
When Camille Orrichio Loccisano lost her teenage son Francesco to cancer six years ago, she found that her grief followed her into the kitchen. “You never know how a loss like that is going to affect you. With me, I found that I could no longer cook,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“I remember a week after my son died, I went to the supermarket and I left the supermarket crying. I didn’t want to buy anything and I didn’t want to cook. I especially didn’t want to cook his favorite foods. All of my passion, all of my enthusiasm, was gone,” Orrichio Loccisano, who lives in Dyker Heights, said.
Francesco Loccisano, known as Frankie to his family and friends, was a 17-year-old Xaverian High School junior when he died. He had loved eating meals lovingly prepared by his mother.
Orrichio Locisano, a former restaurant owner and caterer who had cooked nearly all of her life knew that she couldn’t allow the grief to overtake her. The single mother knew she had to move her life forward, if only for the sake of her other sons, Nicholas and Christopher. “I said to myself, ‘I can’t stay like this. I have to fix this.’ So, I marched into the kitchen and made Frankie’s favorite meal,” she said. “It gave me a tremendous sense of peace. As the years passed, I found that I liked serving it to people who had never met Frankie. It was a way for them to get to know my son a little bit,” she said.
The chicken francese recipe she made in her son’s memory is one of 170 recipes in Orrichio Loccisano’s new cookbook, “Foodships Living Life…One Recipe at a Time,” published by Mitchell Woodiwiss Publishing.
“It’s a book about how food forms the basis of so many things in our lives. It brings us closer together and allows us to share things. It connects us in so many ways,” Orrichio Loccisano, 48, said.
The title “Foodships” is a combination of the words “food” and “relationships.”
The book is featured in the December issue of Food Network Magazine.
Orrichio Loccisano divided the cookbook into sections. Parts One and Two contain recipes and stories inspired by her family and friends, like “Uncle Sammy and His Secret Marinara Sauce.” The third section of the book is where Orrichio Loccisano has listed her recipes. The section is subdivided into various categories such as breakfast, appetizers, pasta dishes, soups and salads, entrees, and desserts.
Throughout the book, Orrichio Loccisano threads the story of her life. “I want people to be inspired by my book. Life has so many ups and downs, but you can survive it,” she said.
Her recipes are fun and easy to follow, she said. “I want people to read the book, then head into the kitchen and try some of my recipes,” she told the Eagle.
Orrichio Loccisano, a chef who cooks by sight and feel rather than measurements, admitted that she found it tricky writing some of the recipes because the exercise required putting exact measurements into the cooking instructions. “I cook with a little of this and a little of that, a pinch of this and a pinch of that. But that’s hard to explain to people,” she said.
Orrichio Loccisano grew up in Bay Ridge and attended Saint Patrick’s School and Our Lady of Perpetual Help High School. She hailed from a family of cooks and has always felt comfortable in the kitchen.
She has worked as a caterer and helped establish two restaurants in southern Brooklyn, Casa Calamari in Bath Beach and Rocco’s Calamari in Dyker Heights. Over the years, she has worked on Wall Street and for the New York City Department of Education as a cooking instructor.
These days, she spends a great deal of time managing the Francesco Loccisano Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization she co-founded after her son’s death. The foundation provides financial assistance and emotional support to families of children with cancer.
Orrichio Loccisano will be signing copies of her book at the Book Mark Shoppe, 8415 Third Ave., in Bay Ridge, on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m.
Here is a recipe from “Foodships Living Life…One Recipe at a Time.”
3 cups water
1 tablespoon chicken base
4 tablespoons butter
4 slices thick bacon, cut into small pieces
1 shallot, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
In a pot, boil water and chicken base and then bring down to a simmer very low. In an additional pot, melt half of the butter over medium-high heat. Add bacon and shallots. Sauté until shallots are translucent. Stir in rice, and allow to brown. Continue to stir. Reduce heat, and add half the water and chicken base. Allow rice to slowly absorb the water. Do not stop stirring. Continue with second half of water until fully absorbed. Simmer and stir until risotto is tender and creamy. Take pot off heat, and stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the remaining butter, salt, and pepper. Garnish with parsley. (Recipe reprinted with permission from the author)