Back when Michelina DiSibio was 11 years old and living in Gesualdo, Italy, she wasn't too happy when her father pulled her out of school and had her work at home. She wanted to be a doctor, but thankfully for local diners, that was the start of her life as a chef and owner of Michelina's Ristorante Costa Compagnia, a Phoenix Italian restaurant that recently celebrated its 24th anniversary.
DiSibio learned how to cook from her mother and made her first dish, fettuccine marinara. Everything her family cooked was homemade, including the pasta, and they even canned their own tomatoes.
Those practices are the same at her own restaurant, where she's in the kitchen daily and even uses her own freshly grown herbs and vegetables from her home garden. The result is impeccable meals that taste home-cooked.
DiSibio came to the U.S. when she was 18, arriving in New Jersey, where her sister lived. After marrying and having children, the warm climate of Arizona brought her family here. She worked at a couple restaurants before opening her own eatery in 1985.
"One summer, I decided, I'm not going back, I'm going to try for myself," DiSibio says. "I wanted to create a nice, homey, family-style, upscale restaurant. It's like, 'Come on over to my house for dinner.' That's the way that I cook here.'"
Her menu, which changes every couple years, is seafood-heavy, since that's one of her specialties. She's also happy to cook special dishes for people with requests.
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As for the future, all DiSibio knows is she's going to "just keep going" until she can.
"You make so many people happy, and, at the end of the night, that's all it takes to make me happy," DiSibio says.
For a recipe of DiSibio's Linguine con Vongole (linguine with white slam sauce), check back on Chow Bella tomorrow.