My Italian heritage and Abruzzo Region of Southern Italy

Abruzzo  Region of Southern Italy

Even though I was born in Canada, my Mom and Grandfather were born in the Abruzzo Region of Southern Italy.  My grandfather, Tony Varze decided to move to Canada to start his own Olive Oil business (imported from Abruzzo Region). 

My great grandmother taught her son, Tony Varze the family secret tomato gravy recipe (aka Italian tomato  sauce) at an early age. Nonno Varze ( that’s Grandpa Varze in Italian) passed down the family secret recipe to his first born grandson, Bari (that’s me ). 

Apparently it’s an old custom Italian tradition, so I’m told. 

I would like to give my followers my great grandmothers secret Italian tomato sauce recipe as a gift. Just because you’re here supporting my efforts, possibly buying my cookbook, “Canadian Recipes of the Great White North” and trying out my recipes. 

Tony Varze passed along his Italian culture to his family. My uncles Roger, Ron,  Don and my mom we’re a big part of carrying on tradition. In fact, it was traditional to have some sort of Spaghetti dish every Saturday afternoon with a glass of Nonno Tony Varze’s homemade red wine. Of course, it was never just one dish. It was a feast of homemade Spaghetti or fettuccine covered in my great grandmothers secret tomato sauce recipe, chicken cacciatore, a simply tossed salad with sweet white onions, fresh young dandelions greens, iceberg lettuce, Mediterranean Olives, fresh Roma tomatoes (from the garden) pepperoncini, olive oil, white or red wine vinegar ( depending on grandpa’s mood); and topped with generous portion of grated Romano parmesan cheese. Sometimes he would add homemade croutons, but not always. 

Every Sunday after church (Catholic Church of course) , my mom would make homemade ravioli. Again, it was never just one dish, it was more like a 4 – 5 course meal.  Cooked sausages with red peppers and onions would also be on the table with a big portion of homemade bread. Us kids would pick fresh young dandelion leaves to add to the luncheon salad too. Great memories ! 

Unfortunately my Mom, Elda died in her early thirties and my uncle Roger died of a heart attack while on a canoeing expedition. Just turning 13 years old, it was extremely hard on my sister Sabrina and I. To make matters worse, Grandpa Tony Dante Varze passed away on May 23 1988. Originally born in Corropoli, of the Abruzzo Region of Southern Italy. 

After losing my mom,uncle and grandfather within a short period of time, I lost contact with the Italian side of my family. Sure, we did see our uncles Ron and Don, but they were pretty busy with their music careers. They never seemed to have the time. To add injury to insult, we lost contact with the Varze relatives in Italy. 

IF, by chance you know or heard of the name Varze or their relations in Italy , I would love to know where they are now. Maybe the grandchildren of the Varze family within Corropoli, Italy are still there. I am assuming. 

Fortunately for Tony Varze, he did have the opportunity to go back home to Corropoli before he died.  It was sometime in the early 1980’s I believe.  I remember he was so excited to go ! When my grandparents came back, they were glowing with pride, as they showed me their trip to Italy. Grandpa Varze was so happy to go back and see the ancient ruins of Pompeii. 

You know, the one where the whole town was covered with hot volcanic ash. Apparently, as quoted by National Geographic,” … Pompeii was a flourishing resort for Rome’s most distinguished citizens. Elegant houses and elaborate villas lined the paved streets. On the eve of that fateful eruption in 79 A.D., scholars estimate that there were about 12,000 people living in Pompeii and almost as many in the surrounding region.“ 

Pompeii citizens were aware of the Vesuvius volcano, only a short 5 miles from the town, but it was always active presenting no action to the people. So I’m guessing the citizens just ignored the common rumblings, until it was their last, that fateful day in 79 AD.  Remarkably everything in that town, including 2000 of the 12,000 citizens covered, were intact. Perfectly preserved, as if time stood still. Such an amazing archeological find. 

Anyway, my Grandpa and Grandma Varze were grateful they had a chance to see it once again.  My grandma Varze was a school teacher and lived to 100 years old. 

I hope you enjoyed my Italian heritage family story.  Now I give you our secret tomato gravy recipe from my great grandmother.  Please enjoy :

Authentic Italian Family Secret Tomato Gravy Recipe

Bobby Flay 

As any Chef, we always love listening to our peers, such as my favourite, Bobby Flay. I never met him but it feels like I have through his TV cooking Shows and most recent Podcast. 

Impressed by his passion for cooking, family and his brand new restaurant, AMALFI, with grand opening coming Thursday at Caesars Palace,Las Vegas,  I had to reach out to him, even though my words may never find him. 

This is what I said on his Facebook Post : 

“Pasta and the Italian tradition is my life. 

Your relationship w/ your daughter reminds me of my relationship w/ my Italian grandfather. It is — All about Family. 

He taught me what his Mom taught him – the traditional Italian home cuisine. I was in my grandfathers ( Tony Varze) kitchen every weekend learning how to make traditional, spaghetti , fettuccine, gouache, Pizza and Italian Sunday Gravy. 

As an a compliment, a nice fresh salad pick from the garden, featuring Spring baby dandelion leaves, hearty rustic head lettuce, sweet white onions, mixed with olive oil, fresh basil, a nice mix of Mediterranean Olives and a touch of vinegar. 

Our hearty meals were always served for lunch with our dinners being a smaller event. 

To start our morning, my grandfather would serve me expresso in such a tiny cup along w/ biscotti,  and I would dip it my coffee. It was also traditional for my grandfather to serve his homemade red wine, which my sister and I had too, during midday meal. That was just part of the tradition. 

Love that you’re opening up AMALFI featuring the regional coastline of Amalfi , where the sea meets the plate. I’m excited to try out your new restaurant. 

I believe your grand opening is this coming Thursday at Caesars Palace,Las Vegas ? 

I’m so impressed by the personal touch, in how you invite your guests, be it your amazing TV Programs to the most recent Podcast w/ your daughter.  Trust me, I’ve watch all your programs and reruns too. The podcast adds that additional warmth.

Thought I mention— You may interested in reading more about my Italian roots ; just saying. My name “Bari” is from the The Province of Bari, pronounced BAR-ee in Italian. Latin : Barium ; of the Apulia Region in southern Italy 🇮🇹. The capital of course, is the city of Bari. Apparently, my name in Italian stands for ‘Servant of the Creator’.  Just thought I mention it, since you’re passionate about Italy.  

My Italian Heritage

Unfortunately, I never learned the Italian language but my mom and grandfather would always speak it to me, specially when I did something wrong – lol. 

The common words I heard often from my grandfather were :

“mamma mia “,   “Finché C’È Vita C’È Speranza – “While There’s Life, There’s Hope” and L’Appetito Vien Mangiando – “Appetite Comes With Eating”.

I’m passionate w/ Italian cooking too. Thank you Bobby, if I may call you be your first name. Maybe you read this, maybe not. Whatever the case, I had to express my thoughts…

 Buongiorno signore ! 



Thank you,

Chef Bari


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Dan says:

    Hi my name is Dan I worked for Tony and Vincent when they had a grocery store in the Westmont area in the sixtys. TONY loved his hot peppers with spaghetti and a hug glass of water.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. chefbari says:

      Hi Dan,
      Yes – I remember this well . One time he gave me chilli peppers 🌶 in Olive Oil when I was about 6 years old. It was my first taste of something extremely hot – lol. My Mom didn’t approve – lol.


  2. Randy Michetti says:

    My name is Randy Michetti. I grew up in Hylo, and my grandfather’s sister, was your great grandmother. My father was a first cousin to your grandfather. Your description of the recipes and meals brings back a lot of memories for me. Quite often, those Sunday meals were followed by highly intense bocce matches in our yard on the farm that included Tony, Primo, Johny and other members of the Varze gang. I would be very interested to learn more about your side of the family to help complete more of our family tree. You can reach me at:


  3. Kerry Bell says:

    I will always remember my Mother making this sauce, and the reason I love spaghetti and any Italian cuisine. Great grandma Ruby was always an inspiration to me, and I miss her amazing wit and humour. We may have a different name now, but the Varze blood still runs strong! Thanks uncle for all of your awesome cooking tips and love for our family heritage.


    1. chefbari says:

      Thank you Kerry 🤩


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