Filomena Castriciano began her passion for cooking when she was very young; she would help her mother with many chores around their small, two-room house in Caricchio — especially with the cooking. From southern Italy to Lansing, Castriciano carried that love with her.
When she was 12, Castriciano and her family moved to Lansing. It was here that Castriciano learned to cook foods that involved more than just vegetables, bread and sauces.
Her passion for cooking really took off when, in 1969, Castriciano and her husband opened their own store. Formerly known as Antonio’s, Roma Bakery and Imported Goods is located at 428 N. Cedar St. in Lansing. Open for nearly 50 years, Roma Bakery has provided the Lansing and East Lansing communities with fine foods and sweet treats for decades.
To share these delicious delicacies, Castriciano compiled a book of recipes containing anything from appetizers to pastas and casseroles to desserts. She enjoys educating others on the tricks of creating fine dishes and encourages them to embrace their culture. “The more you teach, the more fun it is,” Castriciano said.
I had the privilege of participating in a cooking session with Castriciano. We made, from scratch, her delicious Braciole Rolled Sirloin Tip. It was amazing to see how the dish came together with the combination and exact measurements of each ingredient. I could feel the passion Castriciano emanated during my visit, which in turn inspired me.
“This is my life — I love to cook,” Castriciano said.
Castriciano shows that passion when she interacts with her customers. Always taking extra time to speak with them, she has built close relationships with the people in her community. “What is food if it’s not about family and friends?”
Looking to get into cooking yourself? Castriciano has some advice for those who are new to the art — “Make it homemade and make it social.” Diving right in and learning as you go seems to be the best way to go about it. If you need a place to start, Castriciano’s cookbook, Cooking with Mena, is available for purchase at Roma Bakery.