What will be more delicious, the recipes or the stories?

There are probably few ladies more skilled with a cleaver than the “Mob Wives.”  And three of those ladies, Lana, Jennifer and Renee Graziano from the hit VHI reality show are sharing their talents along with 100 recipes in the new cookbook “How to Use a Meat Cleaver: Secrets and Recipes from a Mob Family’s Kitchen.”  As of press time, the book and its authors are some of the top trending topics on Twitter.  

“How to Use a Meat Cleaver” features home-style and fancier Italian recipes – the really special kind that sometimes get lost when family members pass away – including parmesan-baked rigatoni with cauliflower, penne with fried eggplant, Sunday gravy and Sicillian rice balls.

The ladies also reveal food-centric stories about life in “the family,” like how to sneak meatballs to family members in prison (hint, one tip involves a snack-size potato chip bag).

"Mob Wives"

Lana Graziano, along with her sisters Renee and Jennifer and Big Ang will host a dinner and book signing Thursday (Feb. 13) beginning at 6 pm at Brando’s Restaurant in Asbury Park.

During a recent snowy night, I made two of the dishes in the book and the delicious results made me think Martha Stewart better watch her back… literally.

I spoke with area resident Lana Graziano (she is an absolute doll and reminds me of my aunt who I miss so much) about the new book and her appearance, along with her sisters and Big Ang, at Brando’s restaurant Thursday (Feb. 13) evening.

TBP:  I am not a huge fan of cookbooks and I loved the meals I made compliments of the Graziano family.

Graziano:  It took us about half a year to write the book and two generations of time to perfect the recipes.  The most difficult part for me was fine-tuning the measurements.  Usually, I just eyeball it.  I wanted to make the recipes simple for people who are not familiar with Italian cooking and good enough for people serious about eating Italian.

We also did the cookbook because my sister Renee and I were not getting along very well for no specific reason and our sister Jennifer thought this would be a way for us to spend time, which worked out.  Renee is the middle child and always requires a lot of attention.  We are all getting along now and will be at the event at Brando’s Restaurant – with Big Ang too!

TBP:  The overwhelmingly most-asked question for you, from my Twitter followers, was “is it sauce or gravy” you put over pasta?

Graziano:  Renee and I argue about this all the time.  It was a big scene in the pilot for the TV show.  She calls it sauce because she thinks gravy is what you put over mashed potatoes.  I call it gravy because it has meat in it and you put it over a something. Right?  It makes sense.  Also, it’s called “gravy” in Italy.

Whatever you call it, it’s an important part of family getting together and that’s why I love that recipe the most.  Gravy is about Sundays and family.

Jennifer’s favorite recipe is the chicken cutlets.  Jen’s the baby and when she was coming home from college mom would not let us touch the cutlets until Jen got what she wanted.  Renee loves the recipe for linguini and clam with white sauce.

TBP:  You include family stories and photos coupled with the recipes.  There is a great photo of you as teens crabbing somewhere.

Graziano:  That was in Belmar.  We had a lot of good family times around here.  Our recipe for crabs in red sauce is in the book.

When we were kids we would pull the boat up to Klein’s in Belmar – when it was a small garage restaurant.

TBP:  Finally, what should every Italian kitchen be stocked with?

Graziano:  Both extra virgin and regular olive oil, crushed red pepper and garlic; grated cheese is a must.  And chicken bouillon – I prefer the granulated kind.  If you have those things and the book, you can make something for anybody who stops by on their way home after a day at the beach.

Celebrate the book launch with the Graziano clan and Big Ang at Brando’s in Asbury Park:  Meatballs, Wine and Mob Wives, Thursday (Feb. 13) beginning at 6 pm.  $60 ticket includes cicchetti menu served in a private room, autographed book. Buy “How to Use a Meat Cleaver” on Amazon.