Our tour book recommended that we visit a museum called the Legion of Honor. Our breakfast companions from Australia had never heard of it, nor, it seemed, had anyone else! That didn’t stop us. Situated in Lincoln Park, the museum is a long bus ride away from downtown SF, followed by either a short bus ride or a long walk. Not knowing when the second bus would arrive, we decided to walk.
The museum has 19 rooms, each focusing on a particular artistic era, beginning with ancient Egyptian art and ending with impressionism that included works by Camille Pissarro, no relation. I loved following the progression of art, absorbing the mood created in each room without being overwhelmed.
Among its permanent exhibits, the museum has a large collection of Rodin sculptures. We had seen many of them at the Rodin Museum in Paris, but Rodin made more than one casting of several of them. Feeling in a French mood, we shared a salad Niçoise for lunch.
That evening, we would be having dinner with my cousins, the Ursinos. Let me explain our relationship. In the early 1970s, my dad’s brother, John Nucatola, was the supervisor of officials for the NBA. Having traveled to San Francisco in that capacity, he was introduced to Theresa Nucatola Ursino and other members of her family. Both John’s and Theresa’s ancestors were from Palermo, so they had to be related, but what was the exact connection? How could we find out?
When I accompanied Nick on a business trip to SF, I called Theresa. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Theresa and I exchanged letters and phone calls for decades, sharing information about anyone and everyone named Nucatola. Some years later, we had the pleasure of meeting Theresa, her siblings and her children, who could not have welcomed us more warmly. Also, several of my East Coast relatives met Theresa and had dinner at one of the Nucatola/Ursino restaurants when they were in SF. A few years later, Theresa gave me a list of eleven Nucatolas she had found in the Palermo telephone directory. I wrote to all of them, and one, Francesco Nucatola, replied. Francesco went to the Palermo Archives and found the information we needed to learn how all branches of the Nucatola family were related. The question had been solved by a group effort!
Nick and I had met with Theresa’s son Joe, his wife Marilou, and Joe’s sister Anna, three years earlier on our first visit to see Nicholas. I was so looking forward to getting together with them again! Thanks to Facebook, we have remain connected over the past three years. This time, Nicholas would be joining us for dinner.
We met my cousins (fourth cousins, to be exact) at their favorite restaurant, Umbria, at Howard and 2nd. What a heartwarming evening it was! We caught up on our families, and celebrated Theresa. Although she has passed on, her love is strong within each of us. We drank a toast to her upon the 100th anniversary of her birth.
My cousin Joe, and Giulio, the owner of Umbria, where good friends who had met when they were both restaurant owners. Giulio explained that as soon as he met Joe’s mother, Theresa, she took him under her wing as another of her children. Theresa was like that.
The feasting began with antipasto. Nick and Nicholas each ordered pasta as their main course. One of my favorite foods is risotto, and Marilou and Joe recommended Umbria’s version, with porcini mushrooms and truffles. I have never had risotto like it before and I’m not likely to again. It was unique, rich, earthy and delicious. I loved it! Meanwhile, Joe and Marilou were getting to know Nicholas, who chatted with them throughout dinner. For dessert, Giulio sent over a platter containing cannoli, Italian cheesecake, tiramisu, and chocolate mousse. We marveled over tastes of each of them as we talked of a trip to Sicily taken by Joe, Marilou and Anna three years ago, and of Nick’s and my impending trip there to celebrate our 40th anniversary in November. Ubering back to our B & B, we marveled at how blessed we are to be part of such a wonderful, warm, loving family.