Sunday, August 28, 2005
In Memorium: Carmela D'Alleva
Well, after nearly 95 years of zest, my grandma died today. She was a great woman who cared about everyone she met. I've never written an obituary before, so here is hers from my point of view:
Carmela Teresa D'Alleva, born Dec. 16, 1910 in Carlopoli, Calabria, Italy, died Aug. 28, 2005, in Royal Oak, Michigan, USA. Carmela was born in Italy's southwestern-most region, Calabria, in 1910 to Teresa and Carmine Talarico. Her father came to America and Canada in the 1920s to work, and in 1927 (after he had made enough money to bring them over), the rest of the family joined him. When Carmela first arrived in the US, she lived with some relatives in Brooklyn. According to Grandma, these relatives, the Mancaruso brothers, lived in a mansion in Brooklyn, owned their own construction company, and everyone did favors for them and they did favors for everyone else. Despite the obvious, Grandma vehemently denied my suggestion that the Mancarusos were Mafia dons, even though they clearly were. Either she didn't know (since she was a teenage girl and they wouldn't have let her in on the "family business"), or she was sworn to secrecy.
At some point, the family moved to sunny Erie, PA, which at the time was apparently not the armpit of Pennsylvania that it is today. Carmela's mother and two brothers, Guiseppe and Salvatore (or Joe and Sam, as they were called in America), lived there until their respective deaths. Somehow and somewhere and some point in time, Carmela stumbled upon a brilliant and dashing young chap by the name of Basil D'Alleva. They married in the early 1940s and moved to sunny Detroit, MI, which at the time was not the murder capital of the world that it is today.
After birthing two daughters, the happy couple moved to the suburb of Royal Oak around 1950. It was there where Carmela honed and perfected her cooking abilities, eventually becoming maker of the world's number one ranked gnocchi and lasagna, and number two ranked pizza (only behind Chicago's original Uno's). And she did all of this with the same stove for 50+ years and without ever having a microwave. Her cooking has actually become kind of a curse because I can never have gnocchi as good as hers. No matter where I go or how much I spend, no restaurant has come close. I only wish I would have videotaped her making it (she never had a recipe--she just made it).
In addition to her cooking prowess, Carmela was a chronic gambler, never missing a chance at playing the lotto. In fact, she was so addicted to gambling that she started a tab at the nearest party store and she would actually get her neighbors to go get her lottery tickets when she couldn't walk down there herself. If she ever gave me $20 and I said I was going to spend it at a bar, she would scorn me. But if I told her I was going to Casino Windsor with it, she would praise me and give me another $20.
She was also psychic. There was one rule with regard to her dreams: If she dreamed you were going to die, you would. It was actually kind of freaky to hear her tell some stories. For instance, she had a dream that one of her cousins died in a shipwreck. The next day, she got a letter saying that her cousin drowned. Now that's just sick.
There wasn't a heart she didn't touch or a stomach she didn't fill.
She is survived by two daughters, Christine (of Troy, MI) and Anita (of LaGrange, IL), and two grandsons, Andrew (of Dayton, OH) and Reed (of Chicago, IL).
Here is a short timeline of Carmela's life:
-1910 - Born
-1927 - Moves to US
-1942 - Marries Basil
-194? - Daughter #1, Christine, born (I was sworn to screcy about the actual year)
-194? - Daughter #2, Anita, born (ditto)
-1950 - Moves from Detroit to Royal Oak
-1951 - Carmela's gnocchi and lasagna both debut at #1 in the world
-1977 - Grandson #1, Andrew, born
-1982 - Grandson #2, Reed, born
-1982 - Teresa Talarico dies in Erie, PA at the age of 93
-1987 - Carmela shatters one hip after she and Basil for some reason tried to move a 500-lb wood lathe in their basement
-1990 - She accidently (and innocently) refers to someone as the "jackass of all trades"
-1995 - Basil dies in Clawson, MI at the age of 86
-1996 - Carmela shatters other hip after falling down stairs in Erie, PA
-1997 - Brother Sam dies in Erie, PA at 89
-2004 - Carmela's gnocchi and lasagna ranked #1 in the world for the 53rd consecutive year
-2005 - Brother Joe dies in Erie, PA at the age of 93
-2005 - Grandson #1, Andrew, gets married
-2005 - Carmela dies peacefully in her sleep in a hospital room Royal Oak, MI, thus reuniting with her husband and family, and leaving a huge void in gnocchi and lasagna circles