A cook in Lombardy, a Pope in Milan, and an immigrant ship….
“Thinking back, I wish I had spent more time listening, and less time eating! I wish I had found out more about my past, than worrying so much about my future. Because, we are after all … a product of our History!”
Pictured above is Angelo Bertocchi. Our Great – Great Grandfather, or Grande Bisnonno, and Orsolina’s Father! Who’s Orsalina? Well, she happens to be a very important piece of the Puzzle. Perhaps, the most important piece in the History of the Mad Italian! She’s responsible for the Authentic and Traditional Italian Food that we have learnt to cook and Serve!
So, Sit back, grab a glass of Vino, and relax as we share our story with you…. We’ll start from our great Grandmother or we call her, our Bisnonna, Orsolina Ossoli…
Our great Grandmother ( Bisnonna ) Orsolina Ossoli was employed as a cook in the houses of Counts in the Urago d’oglio, in the Province of Brescia, a Region of Lombardia in Italy. Rumour has it, that she was so incredibly short, that she had to stand on a box to cook the food.
Traditionally, Italian Recipes and cooking practices are passed down from Generation to Generation, and Orsolina passed her recipes and cooking practices down to her daughter Carmen.
The Biassoni Family lived in the town of Desio, which is in the Province of Monza & Brianza, near Milano in Lomabrdia. Desio is also known as the birthplace of Pope Pius XI . While Europe was still recovering from the horror of World War 2, Carmen Bertocchi and her husband Guido Biassoni, made the decision to leave Italy. Concerned as to what awaited them when they arrived on the Shores of “Africa”, and not knowing what to expect, Carmen and Guido were given permission, and a special favour by a priest named Giovanni Batista Montini.
The Catholic church, allowed their twin boys Angelo and Mario to have their first Holy Communions and their Confirmations on the same day in the town of Bergamo. That same Priest, Giovanni Batista Montini, later went on to become the Archbishop of Milan, on 1 Nov 1954 , was then Ordained the Cardinal Priest of Ss. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti, and finally on 30 Jun 1963, Montini was elected to the papacy and took the name POPE PAUL VI.
In 1953, the Parents and 5 children, left their home in Desio, on a train headed for Venice. It was from Venice, that the family would embark on a Life Changing Journey. Leaving their Homeland in search of a better life for their Children.
Pictured above – Carmen Bertocchi & her husband Guido Biassoni
Another Important person in our history….
Little Angelo Biassoni was only 7 years old, when he boarded “ The Europa” in Venezia, Italia, and set sail for the East Coast of Africa. After a long journey, (Venice, Brindisi, Port Said, Suez, Massawa, Aden, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Dar-es-Salaam, Beira) the Biassoni family finaly arrived in Durban. They eventually settled in Johannesburg.
Pictured below, “The Europa” … The ship that brought many immigrants from Italy to Africa.
In 1976, the (Lloyd Triestino) Europa was sold to Saudia Arabia, renamed “Blue Sea”, then later caught fire and Sank off Jeddah.
For many Years, Nonna Carmen continued the tradition and the practice of her mother’s cooking. She not only cooked for her children, but continued to cook for the new extended Family, which later grew in numbers, to 21 family members.
Every Sunday, Guido and Carmen’s home was a Mad House. Lunch time at the Biassoni’s was a very busy, and noisy affair. All the Husbands, Wives and their many, many children, would be found hungrily and happily feasting away on her Gorgeous italian food, whilst socialising around the Family table.
And, as Tradition calls for, the Family recipes were once again passed down….From one Generation to the Next. From Mama Carmen to Angelo, his wife Gilda and then on to their children, Michael and Liza.
A number of years later, after Angelo’s parents passed away, the Family re-located once again. This time, to the beautiful coastal ” village” town, of Umhlanga Rocks on the East Coast of Kwazulu – Natal.
Son Michael Biassoni, attended School in Durban North, at Beachwood Boys High. And after Marticulating in 1985, he attended the University of Natal. On completion of his studies, he decided to take some time off and took a number of “Gap” years to Travel around before deciding what direction his life would follow.
A few years later, after travelling Europe and spending some time in Italy with the Family abroad, Michael returned to South Africa. The family was re-united again, and after many years, and plenty of nagging from Friends and Family, Angelo, Gilda and Michael went on to open their first Trattoria / restaurant in Umhlanga Rocks in 1993.
The Family enjoyed a number of very long, busy and festive nights in their Trattoria. Run as a true family establishment, their following grew and the Trattoria continued with its success. But, the time came, when the Family made the decision to take a break.
Michael wanted to be home more with his family, and spend more precious time with his children, Carmen and Daniela, and his wife Naomi. It did not take too long, before Michael decided that the time was right to dive in once again, and follow his passion!
And so, in 2006, restaurateur, Michael Biassoni, opened the doors of his newest edition in the busy Durban North Community ….