Mom knew a thing or two about Ital­ian cook­ing.

Reminisce - - Contents - BY TONY D i MARCO • LOS ANGELES, CA

He sang the praises of Mom’s meat­ball sand­wich.

Like all Ital­ian moth­ers, my mom, Mae DiMarco, made the best spaghetti sauce in the world. But un­like the other moms, her sauce went public in front of Hol­ly­wood stars. My dad had re­ceived two valu­able food-stand fran­chises for the

Los Angeles County Fair when it reopened in 1948. Prior to that, the lo­ca­tion had served as a mil­i­tary camp and pris­oner of war cen­ter dur­ing and af­ter World War II.

Dad de­cided to serve tra­di­tional ham­burg­ers and hot dogs in one of the stands. In the other, he took a chance by serv­ing lesser-known items—Ital­ian sand­wiches. One of them was a meat­ball sand­wich dipped in pasta sauce. And whose meat­balls and sauce would be bet­ter to serve than my mother’s?

The sand­wiches con­sisted of three meat­balls smoth­ered in Mom’s de­li­cious sauce and served on a tasty French roll. They were a big hit at the fair, the sec­ond-largest in the coun­try. But in 1950, the sand­wiches un­der­went a stiff taste test.

Ezio Pinza, the fa­mous Metropoli­tan Opera basso, had un­der­taken the male lead in South Pacific when it opened on Broad­way in 1949. The show, co-star­ring Mary Martin, be­came a megahit and in­tro­duced such songs as “Some En­chanted Evening” and “Bali Ha’i.” Af­ter win­ning a Tony Award at 57, Pinza be­came a house­hold name.

While in Hol­ly­wood to ful­fill a movie con­tract with MGM, Pinza vis­ited the fair. When my mother spot­ted him eye­ing our sign with skep­ti­cism, she quickly made him a meat­ball sand­wich free of charge. He took it and dis­ap­peared.

A short while later, he re­turned, this time with an en­tourage of al­most a dozen peo­ple. My mom asked,

“Ti • piaci­uto?” (Did you like it?)

A broad smile came over Pinza’s face as he replied, “Deliziosa!”

He or­dered a dozen sand­wiches on the spot and later came back for more. It was a fine en­dorse­ment but not a sur­prise for those of us who had en­joyed Mom’s cook­ing for years.

How could Ezio Pinza not have liked her sauce? It was the best.

Tell us about a job you loved: REM­I­NISCE.COM/SUB­MIT-A-STORY

TONY WORKED the food stand where his mom and dad in­tro­duced Ital­ian sand­wiches to fair­go­ers.

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