Basil InstinctI’m Eve Angelotta, head chef at Miracolo, the Italian Restaurant on Market Square at the center of Quaker Hills, Pennsylvania. We’re forty minutes north of Philly. My nonna, Maria Pia Angelotta, who actually owns the restaurant, will try to tell you Miracolo’s the only restaurant in town. “Technically, cara mia,” she says slyly, “the others call themselves eateries, creperies, taverns, and cafes.” Then she thumps her chests grandly. “We,” she insists, “are the only restaurant.” If you want to know how I spend a typical day, you just got a dose: mostly I spent it trying to make sense of my nonna. And keep her out of my kitchen.

In that second account of my Adventures in Cooking, Basil Instinct, you will discover what happens when my nonna is allowed unleashed back in the kitchen at Miracolo. My cooking cousins, Landon and Choo Choo, and I had to let her do it. She was invited to join Belfiere, a 200-year-old, secret, all-female cooking society, and she had to prepare a meal for the members. Violent weather systems make less of a mess. So, on that day at least, I was busy keeping an eye on the breakables. Sadly, I overlooked a member of the restaurant staff, who wound up murdered. On the very day of Nonna’s special dinner. It was all I could do to keep grandmothers and corpses comfortably far apart.

When investigating murder isn’t cutting into my work day at Miracolo, what do I do? Sometimes it seems like I all I do is sleep, prep for the evening’s menu and then cook it, with the help of my beloved cousin Landon. He and I will occasionally “dish,” and I don’t mean delicious Italian fare, over our favorite Scotch across the street at Jolly’s Pub. When the work day is over and the restaurant has closed. At those times, Landon and I cover our respective dating lives – this takes surprisingly long considering how non-existent they are – and the ever popular topic, What To Do About Nonna.

Aside from time with Landon, both in and out of the Miracolo kitchen, I try to find reasons to hire my lawyer, the handsome Joe Beck, to attend to my legal needs (without getting into too much trouble, you understand), and I try to figure out ways to get rid of my annoying cousin Kayla Angelotta, the organic farmer who provides Miracolo with a lot of its produce. Mind you, I don’t mean “get rid of” Kayla in a permanent way – although that would certainly increase my face-to-face time with Joe Beck – just in a temporary, creative way from one week to the next. Some way that doesn’t affect the delivery of our produce. Because I’m pretty sure it’s the fact that I can’t make sense of how she farms in hot pink shorts overalls that makes me wish I had learned Nonna’s Evil Eye – and not at all the fact that she brags about her fling with Joe Beck.

Choo Choo tells my I could teach another Basic Cooking Skills class at the local career center as a way of staying out of Kayla’s orbit. “She should stay out of mine!” I yell as I hurl my cheese grater at him. To appreciate that, you’ll have to see what he’s talking about in Basil Instinct. And right now, well, it’s back to work for me. We open at five, and I’ve got a veal alla milanese on the menu this evening. Maybe you’ll stop by?

You can read more about Eve in Basil Instinct, the second book in the “Miracolo” mystery series, published by Pocket Books. The first book in the series is You Cannoli Die Once. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on July 7, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of BASIL INSTINCT. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
SHELLEY COSTA grew up in Garwood, NJ, which is probably how she came to love and understand small towns enough to write about them. When she graduated from Rutgers, she took a job in book publishing in midtown Manhattan and did the Mary Tyler Moore thing, tossing her hat in the air. She moved to Cleveland for graduate school in English, where she met her husband, raised her family, wrote and published short stories, and took a job teaching creative writing part-time at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Her last big adventure was two years ago when she and her family did a six-day canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness. Her contribution to this out-of-her-comfort-zone trip was to pack fifteen rolls of toilet paper.

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