Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Welcome, Diana Rubino

A Tradition of Christmas Past: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio Recipe, and My Italian Heroine, Based on my Great Grandmother “Josie Red”


My great grandmother Josephine was the matriarch of the family, the mother of my grandfather. “Josie Red” as she was known in downtown Jersey City was way ahead of her time, as a bootlegger during Prohibition, a real estate tycoon, a small-time loan shark, and according to legend, the notorious Jersey City Mayor Hague’s mistress.


Every Christmas Eve, her daughter, my great-aunt Lucretia, a gourmet cook, invited everyone to her house for an Italian feast. Aunt Lucretia always made two types of spaghetti sauce—regular marinara sauce and aglio e olio—but what I remember is it always contained clam sauce, which I wouldn’t touch, so I went for the plain and safe marinara. Kiddies weren’t allowed to, but several adults helped her carry the steaming plates to the long tables set up and covered with holiday-themed tablecloths. She served all the traditional Italian dishes—after the pasta came the ham, then the fruit and nuts, and of course, an array of desserts, always including her famous struffoli (honey balls) and Italian rum cake. My Uncle Eddie tended bar at the other end of the room. 


Vita Caputo, the heroine of my 1894 New York City romance mystery FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET, is based on my great grandmother. It’s in print, on Kindle, and now on audio with the expressive voice of Nina Price.



Can an Italian immigrant and an Irish cop fall in love and prove her family’s innocence of murdering his cousin despite poverty and prejudice on Manhattan’s Lower East Side?


It's 1894 on New York's Lower East Side. Irish cop Tom McGlory and Italian immigrant Vita Caputo fall in love despite their different upbringings. Vita goes from sweatshop laborer to respected bank clerk to reformer, helping elect a mayor to beat the Tammany machine. While Tom works undercover to help Ted Roosevelt purge police corruption, Vita's father arranges a marriage between her and a man she despises. As Vita and Tom work together against time and prejudice to clear her brother and father of a murder they didn't commit, they know their love can survive poverty, hatred, and corruption. Vita is based on my great grandmother, who left third grade to become a self-made businesswoman and politician, wife and mother. 



As Vita gathered her soap and towel, Madame Branchard tapped on her door. "You have a gentleman caller, Vita. A policeman."

"Tom?" His name lingered on her lips as she repeated it. She dropped her things and crossed the room.

"No, hon, not him. Another policeman. Theodore something, I think he said." 

No. There can't be anything wrong. "Thanks," she whispered,  nudging Madame Branchard aside. She descended the steps, gripping the banister to support her wobbly legs. Stay calm! she warned herself. But of course it was no use; staying calm just wasn't her nature.

“Theodore something” stood before the closed parlor door. He’s a policeman? She looked him up and down with curious intent. Tall and hefty, a bold pink shirt peeking out of a buttoned waistcoat and fitted jacket, he looked way out of place against the dainty patterned wallpaper. 

He removed his hat. "Miss Caputo." He strained to keep his voice soft as he held out a piece of paper. “I’m police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.”

"Yes?" Her voice shook.

"I have a summons for you, Miss Caputo." He held it out to her. But she stood rooted to that spot. 

He stepped closer and she took it from him, unfolding it with icy fingers. Why would she be served with a summons? Was someone arresting her now for something she didn't do? 

A shot of anger tore through her at this system, at everything she wanted to change. It eclipsed her fear, making her blood boil. She flipped it open and saw the word "Summons" in fancy script at the top. Her eyes widened with each sentence as she read. “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”

I hereby order Miss Vita Caputo to enter into holy matrimony with Mr. Thomas McGlory immediately following service of this summons.

Signed and witnessed, it looked very official. She looked up at Theodore. He flashed her a toothy smile.

"He's pazzo, he's just nuts!" She read it again and again, laughing, her eyes filled with tears of relief and happiness. 

“Deeee-lightful, isn’t it, Miss Caputo?” The door opened and he stepped aside. There stood Tom in the doorway. Teddy Roosevelt cuffed him on the chin and vanished.

"I would have arrested you, but I was afraid you would resist." He gave her a playful grin.

She leapt forward and embraced him with every bit of strength she had left, crushing the paper between them. 

"You are just crazy!" was all she could think to say. Still dizzy from the shock, the fright, and the anger that blanketed it all, she juggled a new jumble of titillating emotions.

"You're the one who should be crazy, crazy enough to marry me, that is." 

All her doubts vanished at that instant. “Oh, yes, together we are stronger than any force that would dare keep us apart.”  

In a guarded tone she asked, "You don't mean tonight, do you?" Jadwiga's one-word suggestion flashed through her mind. “Elope.” She wondered if the two of them had planned a slick coup. Was a priest in the parlor waiting to officiate?

He laughed, a halo around his head from the lamp’s glow. "Any night you want. Tonight, tomorrow, next week, just don't make me wait too long."

"How long were you sitting in there?"

"A few hours. I figured you were with your family. Your landlady was nice enough to let me wait. I told her I wanted to surprise you, and I think she figured out what it was. So she didn't interfere. Teddy there, who considerately left us alone, is our commish, and the jokester on the force. He'd have to be, to have gone along with this!"

They went into the parlor and she closed the door, quivering in naughty delight. As she sat on the sofa, he dropped to one knee. He slid his hand into his pocket and brought out a sparkling ring, took her hand and slipped it onto the third finger of her left hand. “Vita, will you marry me?”

“Oh, Tom…” She held it at arm's length, turning her hand this way and that. It glittered in the lamp’s glow.

She would have eloped with him at this minute if he’d asked. If a priest stood in this room, they would have been married by now. She threw her arms around his neck, dizzy with happiness, dizzily in love. “Of course I’ll marry you! Tonight, tomorrow, whenever you want! Oh, how I love you!”  

He sat beside her and she pulled the pins from her bun. Her hair tumbled to her waist, and he stroked it lovingly as she nestled against his chest. Their lips met and parted. Her mind raced . . . we need to set a date!



Recipe for Spaghetti Aglio e Olio:




One pound uncooked spaghetti

6 cloves minced garlic

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese



1.    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a pasta bowl.

2.    Combine garlic and olive oil in a cold skillet. Cook over medium heat to slowly toast garlic, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low when olive oil begins to bubble. Cook and stir until garlic is golden brown, about another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3.    Stir red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt into the pasta. Pour in olive oil and garlic, and sprinkle on Italian parsley and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; stir until combined.

4.    Serve pasta topped with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.




Connect With Diana

My Website


My Blog








Amazon Author Page


My Facebook page “Chat and Promote ... Fans of Historical Fiction and Nonfiction”




  1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Diana! The recipe sounds delicious, and your book sounds wonderful!

  2. Great Post! Yummy recipe! Happy Holidays.

  3. Looks like a great recipe and a fabulous book, Diana!!

  4. Love the recipe and the excerpt. The cover is stunning. Writers write what they know! How lucky you are to have such a colorful great grandmother!

    1. Thanks, Bamakim, I'm happy with the cover art, too. Grandma sure was colorful, and way ahead of her time--businesswoman, politician, small time bootlegger, and landlady.

  5. My husband has fond memories of his Italian family gatherings at Christmas. Thanks for sharing yours and the recipe, Diana! Your book sounds intriguing! I've added it to my reading list.

    1. Thanks, Mary! I sure wrote this from the heart and the recipe is a true Italian classic.

  6. Diana, thank you for the beautiful post and excerpt. I am purchasing the book this instant! And thank you for the yummy recipe. I actually have a litte extra cooked spaghetti in the fridge. Lunch, maybe? :) Jennifer, thank you for hosting! Cheers, ladies!

    1. Thanks so much, Anastasia, I hope you enjoy it. I would greatly appreciate if you let me know if you liked the book, or not--I always welcome feedback. Happy holidays, Diana

  7. Thanks so much for hosting me, Jennifer! The post looks great, and I'm so happy for all the feedback!