How Italy Had A Direct Influence On Food Network's Christian Petroni - Exclusive

It's no secret that Food Network star Christian Petroni is a native New Yorker from the Bronx and a first-generation Italian-American. But, in an exclusive interview with Mashed, Petroni revealed how his career and life have been deeply influenced by his boyhood summers in Italy. Food has always been a big part of the chef's life, and he refers to three types of cooking he had as a child as being super important: The Italian-American red-sauce joints (it "wasn't the food that was cooked at home"); his mother's five-o-clock dinners; and the authentic Italian food of Ponza, the tiny, beautiful island situated off the coast of Italy between Rome and Naples. "We didn't have a lot going on in the summer," Petroni told Mashed, "so we would go out there so my father could work." 

The family stayed with Petroni's aunts, uncles, and grandparents (Nonno and Nonna), who would serve up what he called "island cooking." Ponza is only three-and-a-half miles long, and its mascot is the pesce spada or swordfish, which his aunt Gizella would prepare. (According to Petroni, Zia Gizella is still cooking up a storm in Ponza.) "She would get my uncle Louis squid ... and she would cut the squid and braise it in spicy tomato sauce for hours until it's tender, then serve it with spaghetti," he recalled. Petroni also vividly described the scene at a local restaurant, where he enjoyed whole fried shrimp and penne with swordfish eggs.

Ponza, Italy has a deeper meaning for Christian Petroni

During the interview with Mashed, Christian Petroni was flooded with many affectionate memories of Ponza, Italy. He said that he used to stroll down to a local bar and get a Chinotto — a soda made from the bittersweet myrtle-leaved orange tree — or a cornetto (the Italian version of a croissant) filled with Nutella. "These things for me, pasta e fagioli, pasta e lenticchie, lentil soup, bean stews," were the foods of his summers in Ponza, he said. Despite all of this indulgence in Italian deliciousness, though, by the end of the summer, Petroni usually wanted nothing more than a ham sandwich. His mother would acquiesce, but it would be a ham sandwich the Italian way with prosciutto cotto, provolone, and mustard on rosette de pane, a traditional Italian dinner roll. 

Although he was young, Petroni understood that life in Ponza wasn't just about the wonderful food. It had a deeper meaning for him. Going off to Italy meant taking away — if only for two months — everything that was familiar to him at his home in the Bronx, and replacing it with something different. But then, returning home to New York meant leaving behind everything he came to love about Italy. Petroni acknowledged that he didn't appreciate this dynamic at the time, but now, he shared, "I'm really grateful for that part of my childhood." Today, Petroni honors his upbringing through his cooking. He recently launched an Edible NFT and at the private pizza pop-up where he served up his unique Garlic Butter Sicilian pie as an homage to the Bronx and Italy.

For more information about purchasing an Edible NFT to Petroni's Pizza Party, visit You can follow Christian Petroni's continuing culinary adventures on Instagram.