We rented a house on the outskirts of town, and on the mornings that I'd drive with my young son and daughter to that little market to pick up ingredients for lunch, I would flash back to when Joe and I were kids, traveling around Italy during the summers with our mother. Each year, she'd pick a new region to explore—one summer it was Sicily, the next, Tuscany. My brother and I used to get into fights in the backseat of our un-air-conditioned rental car, and when Mom would finally pull over, it was often at some market she wanted to check out. We'd run around the stalls, ogling all the different ingredients. In Piedmont, I remember, it was spiky cardoons; in Calabria, piles and piles of spicy peperoncino; in Venice, a mind-blowing array of fish. Back then, in the 1970s and '80s, Italian food in the States was spaghetti and meatballs. Aside from the Istrian foods my mother cooked at home—seafood stews, quince soup—our visits to Italy's markets were our first encounters with real regional Italian ingredients and cuisine.