(Senate - May 23, 2013)

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[Pages S3832-S3833]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, Vermont is home to many treasures, from our 
natural beauties to our manufactured goods to our award-winning 
agricultural industry. It is also home to many spirited personalities, 
and today I would like to honor one of them: a good friend and talented 
cook, Mary Anne Gucciardi. Affectionately known as ``Mama Gucc'' to 
those who have had the good fortune of sitting at her dining room 
table, she makes newcomers feel like old friends. For more than two 
decades, she has opened her home to hundreds of University of Vermont 
sports teams, from skiing to soccer, hockey to basketball. Her menu 
includes classics like baked stuff mushrooms, chicken cacciatore, and 
of course meatballs and sauce. The mere mention of her name makes both 
coaches' and athletes' mouths water.
  Mama Gucc grew up in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the daughter of an 
Italian-American father and a French-Canadian mother. It was her 
mother's Italian mother-in-law who served as the inspiration for Mama 
Gucc's gourmet Italian favorites. As the grandson of Italian immigrants 
myself, I have benefited from Mama Gucc's lavish feasts. She has made 
me feel right like I was right back in my own mother's kitchen. Mary 
Anne's heart is even bigger than her generous portions. She has not 
only cooked for hundreds of athletes, hosted distinguished guests such 
as bishops, senators and governors, but she has prepared countless 
charity dinners, raising over $50,000 in scholarships in memory of a 
UVM student, Kevin Roberson, tragically killed in a car accident. Her 
love for cooking and for hosting has made ``Mama Gucc'' a surrogate 
mother for the lucky student-athletes to come through her door, making 
those students, sometimes hundreds of miles from their families, feel 
right at home. In 1999, The University of Vermont honored Mama Gucc and 
her husband by naming a new fitness facility the Richard and Mary Anne 
Gucciardi Recreation and Fitness Center, a tribute most rightfully 
  From every Vermonter who has indulged in Mama Gucc's famous cooking, 
and has been blessed with her warm hospitality and generous support, we 
thank Mary Anne Gucciardi for providing a home-away-from-home to all 
who have passed through her doors.
  I ask unanimous consent that The Burlington Free Press article, 
``Celebrating the Italian Mama,'' be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

             [From the Burlington Free Press, May 10, 2013]

                    ``Celebrating the Italian Mama''

       Among iconic maternal figures, the Italian mama or nonna 
     (grandmother) hovering over a fragrant pot of tomato sauce 
     ranks high--and few bring the legend to life better than 
     South Burlington's Mary Anne Gucciardi.
       Recently in the Burlington kitchen of friends, Gucciardi, 
     80, known as Mama Gucc (pronounced ``gooch''), arrived not 
     only with ingredients to make her famous meatballs and sauce, 
     but also containers of meatballs and sauce, Italian wedding 
     soup and sausage Calabrese to give away.
       ``You get back what you give out,'' said the mother of four 
     and grandmother of four with a smile and a shrug.
       If that were literally the case, Gucciardi would be 
     swimming in an ocean of herb-flecked tomato sauce with 
       For more than two decades until just a few years ago, 
     Gucciardi regularly cooked huge Italian feasts for a number 
     of University of Vermont sports teams with the support of her 
     husband and family. Her multi-course dinners--usually once a 
     season for the ski, soccer, hockey and basketball teams--
     included a variety of home-cooked Italian classics like 
     minestrone, baked stuffed mushrooms, chicken cacciatore, 
     meatballs and sauce, and lasagna for as many as 40 team 
       ``She opened up her home to us,'' said longtime UVM men's 
     ice hockey coach, Mike Gilligan. ``She just treated the kids 
     and the coaches like they were her own family.''
       ``Mama Gucc was just wonderful,'' agreed former men's 
     basketball coach, Tom Brennan. ``She took care of us before 
     we got pretty,'' he joked, referring to the pre-championship-
     era of his team. ``The food was always so lavish, from soup 
     to nuts . . . You know these kids, they eat like horses. 
     Everybody would eat until they couldn't stand up.''
       ``She was always there for us,'' Brennan continued, 
     recalling how Gucciardi accompanied the team to the 1993 
     funeral of their recently graduated teammate, Kevin Roberson, 
     who had been tragically killed in a car accident. ``It was so 
     comforting to have her there and she brought a big pile of 
       In addition, the Gucciardi family held frequent dinner 
     parties for distinguished guests including coaches, senators, 
     governors, professors and bishops, and also cooked countless 
     benefit dinners, which raised more than $50,000 for a UVM 
     scholarship fund in Roberson's name. In September 1999, UVM 
     honored Gucciardi and her husband by naming a new 6,000-
     square-foot fitness facility the Richard and Mary Anne 
     Gucciardi Recreation and Fitness Center.
       It all began after Gucciardi met some student-athletes 
     while helping with a Newman Catholic Center fundraiser, she 
     explained while mixing together a double batch of meatballs. 
     (``I never make a single batch,'' she said.) During winter 
     break, when athletes often had to stay on campus to train, 
     she said, ``they were away from home, looking for a good 
     meal. There was a lot of joy in seeing them enjoy the food.''
       Gucciardi also shared a more personal motivation to give 
     back after her youngest son, now 50, survived a very serious 
     car accident when he was 3\1/2\. The family was in the 
     process of moving to Burlington where her husband had landed 
     a job with General Electric.

[[Page S3833]]

     For six weeks, Gucciardi slept by her son's bedside in the 
     hospital and prayed daily in the chapel at UVM. The local 
     Italian community warmly welcomed them, she recalled, and 
     offered support. ``I just always said I would give back for 
     what was given to us,'' she said.

                             Family recipes

       Scraping the fat and caramelized bits from a pan of roasted 
     Italian sausage into her sauce pot, Gucciardi explained that 
     she has taken family recipes and ``made them my own over the 
       She grew up in Haverhill, Mass., with an Italian-American 
     father and a French-Canadian mother, but her mother learned 
     to cook Italian from her mother-in-law, Gucciardi's paternal 
     grandmother, ``a great cook,'' Gucciardi said.
       After frying the onions and garlic in the sausage fat 
     (``You just get such flavor from that,'' she explained), 
     Gucciardi added tomato paste and canned Italian tomatoes 
     along with a little water and generous amounts of dried 
     parsley and basil, which would come fresh from her garden in 
     the summer, she said.
       ``I never measure anything,'' she added apologetically.
       Luckily for her fans, Gucciardi taught a series of cooking 
     classes in the mid-'80s for which she had to write down her 
     recipes. It was in that class that Gucciardi met John 
     Varricchione, in whose Burlington kitchen she was cooking 
     last week.
       Varricchione, 66, a retired teacher and football coach at 
     Rice Memorial High School, grew up in the center of 
     Burlington's Italian community where, just like in 
     Gucciardi's family, his paternal grandmother taught his 
     French-Canadian mother to cook family favorites.
       ``But I never got my grandmother's recipes,'' he said with 
       Last week, Varricchione and his wife, Joanne, helped 
     Gucciardi form meatballs while her sauce simmered on the 
     stove. The Varricchiones' 3-year-old grandson, Carlo 
     Pizzagalli, popped in and out of the kitchen to visit with 
     his grandparents and ``Mama Goose,'' as he called her.
       The cooks used a small ice cream scoop to measure out each 
     meatball, a tool Gucciardi said she adopted years ago when 
     student-athletes helped her to produce meatballs for 
     fundraising dinners during which they would feed more than 
     800. ``I had it down to a science,'' she said proudly.
       Gucciardi watched her helpers with a kind but careful eye. 
     ``If they have any cracks in them, I reject them,'' she said, 
     explaining that they would fall apart in the sauce.
       As they worked, the scent of meatballs and simmering sauce 
     filled the kitchen. ``I can smell those meatballs cooking,'' 
     said Gucciardi happily.
       ``That's always a good thing,'' agreed Varricchione.
       The first batch of meatballs emerged from the oven, brown 
     and sizzling, and the second batch went in. Gucciardi stirred 
     a generous pinch of sugar into her sauce to balance the 
     acidity of the tomatoes.
       When the meatballs had cooled a little, Carlo tasted one 
     and gave his full approval, followed by a big hug for the 
       The next generation had fallen in love with the cooking of 
     Mama Gucc.