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La Famiglia offers generations of cuisine

Nov. 30, 2011 @ 11:30 PM

HUNTINGTON -- While Ralph Hagy opened his small Italian restaurant on Oct. 3, the origins of La Famiglia stretch back generations to when his grandfather, Raffaele Ierardi, came to America in 1898.

He would work on the N&W Railroad and later as a butcher to save money to bring his family over. His wife Caterina would bring a whole host of recipes from the Calabria region of Italy that are still used today.

"I spent years working in the mine industry selling chemicals and working in the mines, but I always had a passion for cooking," Hagy said. "I picked that up from my mother and her Italian heritage, though my father was also a good cook. There was always a lot of love for cooking in the home. We actually had a chance to travel to Italy and visit my grandmother's hometown. We found out the recipes and tastes we were brought up on were the same as what's still used in the Calabria region today.

"Calabria is the southern most region of Italy," Hagy added. "The cuisine of the Calabria region is known for being more spicy. They use a lot of sausage, pork, lamb and hot peppers. They also make a lot of seafood because it's near the coastline. The flour we use in our pizza comes from Italy. Our sauce is made from San Marzano tomatoes from Naples, Italy. We try to make a traditional Neapolitan pizza. Traditional Italian pizzas use fewer ingredients than American pizzas but they have higher quality ingredients. It's a case where less is more. We use a wood-fired oven that cooks at 700 to 800 degrees. Because of this we use a thinner crust.."

Pizzas start at $12 for cheese. Specialty pies include the "Marinara" topped with peppers, onions and garlic. Another option is the "Carne Amore" with sopressata, capicola, pepperoni, prosciutto. Customers can enjoy a traditional marinara sauce, a pork-based sauce, or a "white" pie.

The restaurant also includes a wide variety of Panini sandwiches served on 5-inch and 9-inch buns. Paninis range in price from $4.50 to $9. There is a different pasta of the day every day for $8.50, and one of the house specialties is "Lasagna Calabrese" ($9.50) made with pork sauce and sliced meatballs. All pastas are served with garlic bread. Canolis with a homemade filling are for sale, as are a West Virginia original -- pepperoni rolls. La Famiglia also brews up gourmet coffee and espressos.

"We started work on the restaurant in April of this year," Hagy said. "This house we turned into the restaurant has been in the neighborhood since the 1890s. We acquired it about six years ago. We tried to maintain the historic value of the house intact. We refinished the hardwood floors and left the fireplace intact. The location where we put in the wood-fired oven is a doorway from when the house was built in the early 1900s."

La Famiglia also has a deli menu. Customers can purchase real Italian sausage, Genoa salami, or capicola by the pound. The family's famous pork and marinara sauces are available by the quart.

La Famiglia opens its doors for coffee every weekday at 8 a.m. The main restaurant hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Cash and all major credit cards are accepted. Marshall University students get a 10 percent discount with their student IDs.

For more information, call 304-523-1008 or visit the website at www.lafamigliadeli.com.