A few of my favorite things involve food, sass, inappropriate jokes, coffee, chocolate, razzing my friends and family, and food. So it is obvious why I love Amalfi's pasta and pizza so friggin' much. I've been going there for years, since I was just out of high school. My favorite coffee shop was next door so I would spend a lot of time hanging out around there. My sister worked at the coffee shop and she was friends with the son of the Italian family that owns Amalfi's. She would talk about how excellent the food was there and how it was making her fat and I should try it. So one day I did. And then I had a slice of their tiramisu. And my world changed.

Smooth, silky, creamy, with a bite of dark chocolate and espresso, and a hint of Kahlua. I was hooked.

I moved several times over the next dozen years. My husband's military life took us all over the country. But every time I would come back for a visit I had to go to Amalfi's. And every time I did I was greeted like a long lost relative. Olympia, the mother would hug me and ask about my life. Mike, the father, would lean over and tell me off color jokes. Linda, the oldest daughter, would tell me about her kids and ask about my family. And Michael, the youngest son who I only call by his last name, would pester me until I stabbed him with a fork.

They were the insulting, laughing, loud, honest, caring, cheerful, Northern family I missed so much after leaving my extended family in Michigan. They are from Italy and NY but it's pretty close attitude wise. And after being surrounded by sweet southern folk for years I needed that harsh banter again to help sharpen my wits.

This last move, back to Charlotte in preparation for my husband's year long deployment, we drove our U-haul truck straight to their parking lot and went in for a late dinner. And it was like nothing had even changed. "Hey Rebek, have a seat. I'll put coffee on." "Oh I didn't know you were coming for a visit." I pointed to the parking lot where my U-haul was. "I'm moving back actually." "Oh good! So you'll come visit us often!"

And I did. When my husband left I was there so often that Mike started threatening to charge me rent. But always made sure there was a fresh pot of coffee when I came in. Because even though I hate eating alone, when I went in there by myself I always felt like I was sitting down to a family meal. Now they call or text me when my favorites are on the weekend specials. And let me know if they are out of tiramisu, and laugh at me as I pretend to cry about it. When I needed some input on how to run a restaurant they told me all about it, I even used their restaurant as the basis for one of my books Truth Revealed. Olympia gives me herbs and seeds from her garden and taught me how to make "real" marinara, after laughing at mine of course. I'm working on carving a giant wooden spoon so she has something to beat her son with again. And I take them birthday cakes and holiday treats too.

I might have a serious tiramisu addiction, which you probably guessed from the amount of times I talked about it already, but I also feel like my family in this area has gotten larger. And everyone should have an Italian family they can call on when they need food therapy.