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Sharing family recipes, memories

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Italian cook Livia D'Atri prepares dishes that are highlighted in her book "Momma & Me & You," which will be featured on QVC on Aug. 25.
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GLENBROOK – Livia D’Atri has always considered her cooking a gift – from her mother.

So when the opportunity arose to feature recipes out of a cookbook she wrote with her daughter, Jan D’Atri, to millions of cable television viewers, the Glenbrook-area woman jumped at the offer with popular shopping channel QVC.

The QVC channel’s “Cookbook Corner” will host the D’Atris with the book “Momma & Me & You” on Aug. 25 at 11 a.m.

The book mainly sells in gourmet cooking stores in Arizona, where mother and daughter both own homes and Jan works for an NBC affiliate in Phoenix. Channel 12 has regularly scheduled Jan’s mother on a 10-minute cooking segment.

“I was supposed to retire,” Livia joked, as she whipped up chicken cacciatore on the stove wearing pearls and high-heel shoes. Her Lakeridge home has a panoramic view of Lake Tahoe.

Despite the presence in Arizona, the family has a long history at Tahoe. “Momma” Livia ran D’Atris Italian restaurant with her late husband John for a decade beginning in the mid-50s where the Lake Tahoe Pizza Co. now stands. The couple ended up cooking for a wide assortment of celebrities of the area – Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Dinah Shore, for starters. They also owned other restaurants in Carson City and Scottsdale.

Livia combined her own live-and-learn talents with observations from her mother Rita Biasetto’s kitchen in their home 18 miles from Venice, Italy. From there, Livia passed on the love of cooking to her daughter.

“Momma made all the soups by scooping from the stockpot that simmered on the stove. Momma grew tomatoes the size of my sister Vicki’s head,” Jan wrote in the book of her childhood in her mother Livia’s kitchen.

For their mother’s favorite dish, cannelloni, she used recipe tips from Joe Bona, the executive chef on the USS Monterey. Bona served on the ship in World War II with John D’Atri, who died in 1991. He was the bartender for the restaurant and butcher for D’Atri and Sons and inspired Livia’s cooking along the way with various cooking gadgets like the wooden ravioli press, bagel cutter and milk carton pourer. He even used a rustic copper pipe to form the cannellonis.

“He was my rock. Without him, I wouldn’t be what I am,” she said, teary-eyed.

When the couple moved to Tahoe from San Francisco in the mid-1950s, they were disappointed by the restaurant offerings. Still, they wanted to live by the lake and ski when they weren’t working.

Livia still loves to cook and entertain. She said many people make it more stressful than it has to be.

“When you know your flavors, the secret is just in the prep. I tell people: ‘Don’t look at all the ingredients. Just prepare yourself,'” she said, calling her book “user-friendly.” One dollar of each book’s sale goes toward the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation, an organization formed to fight a rare cancer Vicki D’Atri is recovering from. The book costs $27.11 and can be bought at http://www.jandatri.com.

The D’Atris are working on another cookbook called “Rescue Your Recipe.”

“Momma & Me & You” Cookbook co-authors Livia and Jan D’Atri

QVC channel, “Cookbook Corner”

Aug. 25, 11 a.m.-noon PST


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