The Italians and Root Beer

Growing Up in Kellogg, Part Two

By John Vivian

The author, a retired journalist and professor, assembled recollections of his youth in Kellogg for a group of friends and former classmates. This is the second part of a series of excerpts from those writings.

An Apple in a Pear Tree

The best ravioli in the world was Mrs. Marche’s. Her mornings were spent making and rolling the dough from scratch. Usually she roasted and minced a chicken for the filling. But depending on dinner the night before, she might instead create a savory mash of leftovers. Her fingers lovingly sealed each and every delectable pasta pillow before boiling. This was no Chef Boyardee stuff. By noon the Marche house, two doors down from ours on Railroad Avenue, was as fragrant as any Tuscan neighborhood. On days when Mrs. Marche overdid herself and made more than she and her retired husband Cap could eat, the rest went to neighbors. Lucky us.

These Kellogg Italians, I was told, were from the north of Italy. I wasn’t quite sure where. To be sure, these were not Sicilians. These Italians went light on the garlic. Butter, real butter, was more important in their cooking than tomato paste. Although they kept in touch with families in the Old Country, there was nothing sinister or Costa Nostra about these wonderful people. I assume they came from an Italian mining area, which made them a natural fit in the Coeur d’Alenes. Whether they arrived on the heels of Noah Kellogg in the 1880s I don’t know. I would guess later. Their presence went back at least to the 1920s, however.

Mrs. Marche was the quintessential Italian grandma. She always seemed old to me, probably because she was. Cap, who was no less Italian, had emphysema from the mines. He spent most afternoons drinking wine and playing cards with his Italian buddies up at Tony Matetta’s Miners Club, half a block up Railroad Avenue. Most of these old gents were sick, literally sick, from a life of underground mining. About dinner time they would leave Tony’s and go home to ravioli or whatever other delights that their wives had been concocting during the day.

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