Last Meal: Rocco Brings back his Nonna


Rocco DiSpirito’s new cookbook, Rocco’s Real Life Recipes, takes inspiration from his family, his technical training, and the kinds of creative flavor combinations he was known for at his restaurant, Union Pacific. Having worked with DiSpirito, a recent guest judge on Top Chef before and having had the chance to spend time eating and cooking with his family, we would have been shocked if his last meal didn’t involve an old lady and a lot of olive oil.

My answer’s boring. You know, my grandma’s eggs.

C’mon, let’s hear it. OK. So, I was probably six the first time I remember this. My grandma had a chicken coop and a rabbit hutch. I used to stay with her a lot [on Long Island]—most of the summer—and she used to get fresh eggs for me. And then, in a big pan, she would fry some garlic till it was brown, and some green peppers, which she grew herself—it would all be in a bath of olive oil. She would cook the eggs in there. The bottoms would get cooked, and the tops, but they would still be a little runny in the center.

Is it like a frittata? No, they’re whole. She was basting them in the oil. It’s actually called basted eggs, I came to learn later. Really, a pool of oil. They were magnificent. She would cut me a huge slice of her homemade bread and then sit across from me in her kitchenette and watch me eat. It was such a wonderful moment. What amazes me is that she always expected me to eat all those eggs, and I always did. You would think eating that kind of thing would make you fat—I probably had half a cup of olive oil—but I never got fat, until a few years ago.

Oh, please. So, she never ate with you? No. She just watched me. I rarely saw her eat at all, actually.

Really? Well, she had no teeth, for one thing.

That would make it tough. Yeah, she would just pull them out when they were ready to go. She was hardcore. Anyway, I could tell you my desert-island fantasy meal, if you want. I mean, everyone wants their grandma’s cooking.

Well, maybe. But for good reason. Yeah—I mean, I’ve never had better eggs, but it’s not really about that. It was just the ridiculous amount of love moving in my direction. You would need some kind of special ghostbusters’ measuring device to even calculate it. It would be off the charts—bwah! bwah! bwah! You feel that from very few people in your life.