Anastasia Pieri: Fresh Food, Fresh Start.


by Janay Johnson

Nestled between two towering brick buildings in Cagli, Italy, sits a modest, box-shaped restaurant painted a bright orange. Strategically situated outside the front door sits a stand holding the printed menu. The menu is written in Italian, but the food is not all pasta, pizza and meat dishes. Nani is an Italian restaurant with an organic, worldly soul.

After working a variety of odd jobs for 20 years, the owner, native Cagliese Anastasia Pieri, opened Nani to share her passion for cooking. She always loved to cook, but a three-month trip to Malawi, Africa, fueled her desire to introduce culturally diverse foods to the people of Cagli. While she originally went to Africa for vacation, Anastasia’s trip morphed into an informal study-abroad journey with the country of Malawi as the classroom and its people the teachers. Anastasia learned how to prepare African, Indian, and Chinese cuisines. She also became involved with a local charity that collects money for scholarships. With the ideals of a global citizen, Anastasia returned home to Cagli with new perspectives on life, culture, and food.

Now, every morning, Anastasia wakes at 7. She takes her dog to her mother’s house, picks up fresh, organic fruits and vegetables from a local vender, and heads to the restaurant to craft a menu from the carefully selected produce. The menu changes daily depending on the season. One day she may serve chicken-and-vegetable curry over couscous with a light, crisp salad and the next day spicy grilled chicken with pineapple and an assortment of veggies. A few pasta dishes hold places among the seasonal items. All year, she serves spinach-and-cheese ravioli blanketed in fresh basil tomato sauce and vegetarian pasta covered in marinara sauce topped with parmesan cheese.

No other restaurants in Cagli have the same variety of food that Nani serves, Anastasia says. Tourists make up most of her clientele. She doesn’t think the people of Cagli appreciate the hard work she puts into her organic recipes. While she doesn’t fully understand why the people of Cagli do not frequent her restaurant, she feels the recession is affecting all of the town’s food establishments.

“The Cagliesi people are particular,” she says, “but a lot are cutting back in going out in general because of the recession. And when they do go out, they choose to go to different places.”

Operating the restaurant presents Anastasia with many challenges. Nani has been open for a year and a half. She runs the place by herself and is still paying off the loan. She is the head chef, the accountant, the food buyer, the waiter, (on occasion, her husband helps) and the maid. She only hires assistants for large parties and events because she cannot afford them every day.

“The job is exhausting,” she says.

Anastasia jokes about changing careers one more time, but she enjoys cooking for people, she says. At the end of the day, she still loves her work. Her five-year plan is for her restaurant to still be open.

Some days, Nani has few visitors. Even still, Anastasia holds her head up high and says with a smile, “If I ride it out, I will get through it.”

For many Italians, seconds are not spared, minutes are not saved, and hours are not wasted. Time is not measured by efficiency in completing a task. Time is appreciated. Anastasia is thankful for Nani, which is her platform to share her passion for uniting cultures with heartwarming dishes.




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