Mary Jo Saraphine was born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania in 1944. Her grandparents emigrated from Italy to work in the coal mines and steel mills, hoping for a better life and joining other family members who had come before them.  Her grandfather was a master chef; when he wasn’t working in the steel mill he was making cheese and sausage and catering Italian weddings and funerals. Unfortunately, Mary Jo never got to know her grandmothers – they each had 14 children and died by the age of 45.

When Mary Jo was two, her parents (who had grown tired of the harsh winters of Pennsylvania) moved to southern California, settling in Anaheim before there was a Disneyland. Mary Jo learned Italian cooking from her mother, and fondly remembers huge family gatherings around the dinner table. Mary Jo became an expert in Mexican cuisine, too. She struck up a deal with her Mexican neighbor: Mary Jo would teach Mrs. Gomez Italian cooking if Mrs. Gomez would teach her Mexican. And when Mama Gomez visited during Christmas, the whole neighborhood came to the tamale-making parties.

Mary Jo’s favorite movie was John Wayne’s “The Quiet Man,” which she watched each time it was aired around Thanksgiving. She loved the scenery and photography, and thought it beautiful. One day she and her husband were in Portland visiting an old friend.  She looked around and noticed that the landscape looked a lot like her favorite movie. She and her husband turned to each other and said “we should move here.” They did, one year later, in 1976.

Mary Jo’s daughter, Stephanie, nominated her, saying “my Italian mother has always been ahead of her time and creative with her cooking. My brother and I were well fed and taught about nutrition before anyone knew what it meant.” Hopefully you’ll love Mary Jo’s dishes as much as her daughter does!

M.O.M. Menu


Smoked Salmon Pâté

not exactly an italian dish, but her family loves this… a creamy spread made with smoked wild salmon, cream cheese, onion & celery, served with assorted crackers


Stuffed Pizza

house made pizza dough filled with sautéed swiss chard, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan & romano cheese, brushed with olive oil & baked, served with a side salad


“Carlton Farms” Pork Sugo with Polenta

slow-cooked natural pork braised in tomato sauce on a bed of creamy polenta, topped with parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Chicken Piccata

chicken breast medallions sautéed and finished with white wine, lemon, capers & butter, served with garlic & parsley roasted potatoes & garlic green beans


Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

it took Mary Jo many attempts to perfect this cake, and her daughter Stephanie swears it’s the best… served with caramel sauce

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