Gaetano and Annamaria Migliaccio, recent newcomers to the United States, and proud owners of Nanni and Tata in Lawrence, Massachusetts, are thankful to be from this vibrant southern Italian city. In fact, the Migliaccio duo’s history is just as rich as the treats they prepare. As in any Italian family, the preparation of food and the enjoyment of eating it together are often the most memorable of times. Gaetano fondly recalls his grandmother preparing candela, a long and thin tube-shaped pasta, commonly found in his native region of Campania. He can still remember the sound of his grandmother breaking them above the stove before submerging them into a boiling pot of salted water. He remembers racing his cousins to finish his meals, scraping the remaining tidbits off his plate doing the scarpetta (taking some bread and scopping up any sauce left on the dish).
But Gaetano never knew he was destined to become a chef. His journey into the culinary world began somewhat by chance. A flyer in the window of a downtown pasta shop reading “help wanted” caught his young eye. Within weeks, Gaetano decided to formally leave his academic studies in order to fully commit himself to learning the ins and outs of Italian cooking. Gaetano blossomed into quite the chef, perfecting his skills in making pasta, pastry, and other traditional Neapolitan cuisine.
It wasn’t until he met his beloved Annamaria that Gaetano decided to open his own pasta shop. With Annamaria’s support and love for being in the kitchen, the couple began their own business, Il Mulino D’Oro, in 1992. Within the city of Napoli, the Migliaccios’ company is well known, and their pasta and pastry are sought after, with scores of orders leaving their shop each day. But the Migliaccios, with all of their success, held tight to the dream of venturing into the United States to open a second business, which would include catering and hosting functions. And on October 27, 2015, Nanni and Tata officially opened its doors in the heart of industrial Lawrence.
Upon entering Nanni and Tata, I was greeted with a warmness that only a southern Italian could emanate. With a hug and kiss on my cheek, I was seated at a table with elegant white linens. A spread of desserts lay before me, my eyes darting from the decadent sweets to Gaetano and Annamaria. The first pastry I sampled was the pastiera — a recipe Gaetano assured me had been passed down from nonna. With only one bite, I was sure I had never tasted anything quite so heavenly. Light ricotta and a hint of citrus were at the forefront of my tastebuds, paired with soft shortbread dough and just enough sweetness. As Gaetano explained, “the beauty of Italian cooking is using only a few simple ingredients, without letting one overpower the other. This allows you to taste each ingredient individually, and appreciate each one.” My fork sank next into the Migliaccios’ famous rum baba, which proved to be equally delectable. Yet again, I could taste the delicate balance of flavors. With its light, airy texture, the rum baba would serve as the perfect sweet to follow a heavy meal.
The goal of Nanni and Tata is to bring their expertise in both pasta-making and pastry-making to the forefront with a full catering menu. In true Neapolitan style, whatever you desire shall be served. Let Gaetano and Annamaria bring the flavors of Naples to your table.