Ciao! My name is Sandra and if you are visiting my page is because you already know me or, you want to get to know me. For whatever your reason, welcome to my blog. I am the chef owner of Toscana Saporita, a cooking school founded in NY in 1994 by my cousin Anne Bianchi and me. Anne was a fabulous writer and in the early 90s she decided to share her Tuscan roots with the world. I became her researcher for her books on Tuscan cooking. Our collaboration was incredible, fun and adventurous. Writing was the most natural thing, for both of us. After 5 years of successful books, she decided it was time for something else. My cousin could not stay still, she always had one more project on the back burner waiting to be started. She was very much like a torpedo: electric! I used to spend my Winters in NYC, in the most incredible and artistic neighborhood of Manhattan, SoHo (South of Houston), Anne was very much like SoHo. Incredible. Our family was like many Italian families that faced the unknown and crossed the ocean in 1903. Emigrants. Great Grandpa Sante and Great Grandma Rachele had been the fierce and intrepid relatives who decided to leave the poor but comfortable life in Massarosa and their families to move to Pittsburgh, where they had six children: Frank, Emma, Helen, Mary, Rosy and Dante. The steamship they came on, eventually sank in front of Greece on its way back to Italy. At that movement Grandpa Sante knew it was a sign of their new life in America. It was written in their stars. My Grandma Rosy and my Uncle Frank were very close. As a consequence, Anne, Gloria and I were even closer. Our family was like an elastic band, the American side would visit us during the Summer, and we would visit during the Winter. Sometimes it was Summer and Winter. And we really never knew if we were Italians or Americans. One thing is for sure, we got the best of the two worlds: two countries, two languages, two cultures. Eventually the family living in Pittsburgh moved to New York City, and this is where my story begins. That morning Anne woke up calling me like if the whole building was collapsing any minute. She slid the doors of my bedroom/living room open, to just inform me that she would wait for me down the road, at Starbucks. “Hurry! I give you 10 minutes, 5 is better!” In 1994 that chain of coffee shops was the new thing in NYC and if you wanted to sit down you better get up when the sun rises as the lines were impossible. Lucky for us because our apt was between Lafayette and Spring Street, with the firehouse next door. We could have gone in our pajamas and sometimes we did. Starbucks was and still is on Spring Street (one of the few things that hasn’t changed in the City). Ten minutes later I was sitting on the fake leather red sofa at Starbucks, sipping chai latte (which she adored and I did not) and staring at her. “Now what?” I asked. “I have an idea!” was her reply. Her ideas were always curiously scary. But I was also very curious to learn what the idea was.“We need to have something connected to my books.” “Like what? A bookstore? An Italian grocery shop?”, I was laughing at that point. She looked at me right in the eyes and said, “I am serious”. Boy if she was. “It cannot be a restaurant, if I stay in Italy longer than 3 months I would die!” she said in her typical dramatic style. “Well if it is a restaurant that you have in mind, then I have your same problem. I cannot move to New York permanently either, I have a son, remember?” Wandering cousins, this is what we were. All of a sudden she stops like when you have an epiphany (or a stroke) and she goes: “I got it! Let’s open a cooking school!” I choked on my chai latte, stared at her and said “Best thing after sliced bread!” This is how everything started. the road ahead of us was paved with the best intentions and motivations. We also had a few bureaucratical obstacles but nothing we could not solve. “Plan for success” was her mantra. Always. And it worked! Creating the school has been a great adventure, a journey that is still not finished yet. Unfortunately, Anne died of breast cancer in 2001. From that moment on I have been working with my team, trying to recreate that magic, tragic, fun, professional and hysterical atmosphere that Anne and I enjoyed so much together. I needed to make sure her presence was with me, every step of the way ensuring our dreams of this school continues on for many successful years to come. Our adventures were massive and our stories are endless. I cannot wait to continue to share the stories of how the school got started and all the adventures along the way.