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An Ode to My Nonna and Her Veal Spiedini

10:00 AM EST on November 14, 2023

Andrew Cotto's Nonna.

Andrew Cotto’s Nonna (“Noni” Phyllis Maccarrone).

It's an honor to feature the inaugural offering in this new column dedicated to the celebration of nonnas everywhere. Thank you to Rossella Rago for championing nonnas and for inspiring this column.

We called my maternal nonna Noni, because her mother — who spent a lot of time in the kitchen on a folding chair, eating raw garlic slivered with a stiletto smuggled in from Sicily — already went by Nonna.

My Noni was born in Garfield, NJ. She married a Sicilian immigrant named Carmelo Maccarrone (Nonu), and they had three daughters — Nancy, Rosalie and Joanne (my mom) — that they raised in a two-family house on 8th Street in Palisades Park, NJ.

a photograph of Andrew Cotto's family circa 1978.
The Maccarone Family with Noni & Nonu center (the author bottom center).

I'm the youngest of seven cousins on the side of the family. We all lived within easy driving distance of Noni and Nonu's house. Lunch there every Sunday was mandatory. There was no soccer game or birthday party or illness short of hospitalization that could usurp the presence of every member of the family.

Noni, of course, was a phenomenal cook. She would shop on Saturday at the local shops and spend all morning Sunday preparing lunch for her family, which would last all afternoon and morph into dinner. Among Noni's specialties were manicotti, meatballs, braciole, baked chicken (featured here) and her veal spiedini, which my cousins and I still make whenever we get together.

If veal ain't your thing, pork or chicken work as a substitute.

If meat ain't your thing, try it with eggplant or zucchini.

And if you'd like to see me preparing this dish, check out the video below when I made it with Cara DiFalco on Cara's Cucina.

Veal Spiedini

Veal Spiedini

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Recipe by Andrew Cotto


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1-1/2 1-1/2 pounds of veal cutlets

  • 2/3 cup 2/3 seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 grated Pecorino Romano cheese

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 1 lemon, halved


  • Add the olive oil to a medium-sized baking tray or pan.
  • Pound the veal fairly-aggressively on both sides to tenderize and create uniformity.
  • Cut the pounded veal, length-wise, into 1-inch strips.
  • Combine the breadcrumbs and cheese in a pan or tray, mixing thoroughly.
  • Coat each strip of veal with oil on both sides (add more oil if necessary).
  • Dredge each strip of veal in the breadcrumb/cheese mixture, pressing the mixture into the veal to ensure thorough coating on each side. Set each aside on a plate.
  • Roll each strip up into an oval. Set aside, flap side down.
  • Spear 8 veal ovals onto a wooden or metal skewer, making sure the flap is facing inward on the first oval and toward the adjacent oval on the rest. (see notes). Set aside on a plate or tray.
  • When the skewers are loaded, line them side by side on in a large pan or tray that has been lightly-coated in olive oil.
  • Pre-heat the broiler.
  • Broil each side for 4-5 minutes a few inches below the flame (keeping an eye to avoid burning).
  • Remove from the oven when perfectly browned on all sides.
  • Squeeze with lemon and serve.
  • Enjoy!


  • It's important to align them this way to avoid an open flap on either end.

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