Growing up Italian: How I Met My Brother From a Different Mother (Gemellino)


In Italy we have a popular saying: You can’t pick your family members, but you can choose your friends. How exciting! I got to have a twin, who is not my brother, but who’s the bestest of friends. If you find this confusing, you are not the  only one. Here’s how it all happened.

Fabrizio and I playing with some Christmas presents 1968

A warm day of September, 1966. A hospital room in Perugia Italy. My mom arrives in labor, I’m due anytime now. In Italy it’s customary to share the hospital bedroom with someone else. My mom’s roommate that day was “just” another woman, a perfect stranger.

She delivered an healthy boy-Fabrizio- the same day I was born, just a few hours apart.
This is how I met my new “twin” brother or Gemellino in Italian. Fabrizio and I never lost contact during all these years, our lives have been intertwined ever since, spanning through 2 continents and almost half a century.

We have spent holidays together,we attended the same high school (in the same classroom) and later in life we had rendezvous with our partners around the wold, wherever we could. It really sounds more exotic than what really is, but let’s start from the beginning.

High school days. (revolving around food, of corse) I’m the first one on the right-front. Fabrizio first one on the left, sitting at the table.

Fabrizio and I are alike in many ways. So much that we can dance on each other’s last nerve pretty easily. He’s bright, practical,and matter of fact. Somewhat “crude” some could say. I’m never too sure if he’s serious of just kidding. (Either way, I never can’t stay  upset with him for long)
I’m all that, mitigated by a touch of flamboyance.

Now, we are also very different: he’s a computer genius, a nerd to the Nth power.
He goes crazy for anything with wires and buttons. Better if the latest version of the gadget.
I am a paper and pencil fanatic who reluctantly keeps up with technology, better with an old version of anything.

Fabrizio has always been lean and mean, while, since the beginning, I’ve been on the chubbier side.
The extra body mass had its own advantages growing up. I could bully him around!! Also, he always dressed “classic Italian”: muted colors. I tend to gravitate around BIG, bright, flashy colors.

Fabrizio likes winter sports, I’m happiest laying on a sunny beach. Opposites attract?
Fabrizio will always have a special place in my heart. One of those people I don’t have to see every minute to know he is there for me. I know he is. Since now we live 10,000 kilometers apart, getting together has become quite challenging. However, with careful planning, it’s possible. His extreme computer skills not only landed him a teaching job at the University at a very young age, it’s also taken him around the world for his consulting business.

Meet up in San Francisco, 2011

So, we meet when we can. Both our mothers are gone, and our friendship is here to honor them. Two perfect strangers that created an outlasting bond and that manage to live through our memories for years to come. Fabrizio is forever a member of my family. A bond stronger than blood.

Italian selfie! July 2008

Fabrizio is now happily married and has a son who’s as bright as he is. I call him “Junior”. Remember when I said we have a lot of things in common? Well, cooking in undoubtedly one of those. Unfortunately he doesn’t have time to cook as often as he would like, since he’s so busy traveling, but for me…he can make an exception.

Now, to the food: we both love a southern Italian pasta dish, Pasta ca’ Norma. He made it for me last time I was his guest and I’m sharing it, so that now you can make it as well. While you cook, think of your family, and all the friends who are now part of it ..and remember: Family is best when it’s chosen!

This Pasta dish has its origin in the Sicilian town of Catania.

The original name is: PASTA CA’ NORMA. In fact, it’s there that someone presented with such a dish, said: “This dish IS a NORMA”, comparing the sublimity of the pasta flavor to the famous Opera by Bellini. My version might not make you sing Soprano, but it just might  knock your socks off!

Until next time, Mangia, and Ciao!
Per Fabrizio TVB

[gn_box title=”PASTA ALLA NORMA” color=”#253″]



  • 200 gr Ricotta cheese or Burrata shredded
  • 2 garlic cloves- grated
  • 12 leaves of basil
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 400 gr pasta of your choice
  • 500 gr San Marzano tomatoes
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Frying oil
  • AP flour for frying


Thinly slice one eggplant, dice the other.

Sprinkle with salt and let “sweat” for about 1 hour in a colander. You will see the eggplants release dark water. It’s ok. Pat dry with a paper towel and coat lightly in flour. Fry in oil until golden brown set aside.

In a sauce pan, heat about 4 Tbs of oil with the garlic. When the garlic starts to brown, add the tomatoes and a pinch of sugar. Taste for salt.

Cook gently until the sauce has reduced and there is not more watery liquid.

Meanwhile cook you pasta al dente. Drain and toss into the sauce. Add the basil leaves. Coat the pasta with the sauce and the diced eggplants adding extra olive oil if necessary. Arrange on a plate over the eggplants slices. Top with burrata or grated ricotta salata.

DSCF4397 Pasta alla Norma

Eat immediately. Enjoy.

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