It might be said that Alberto’s house is famous for being situated quite close to Midway Airport. It’s understood that his house is just under flight paths, and that it’s nearly obliterated by airplanes daily. I mentioned to a friend that I had gone there for this project, and she asked “Oh, does he still live by the airport.” Yes, Alberto still lives by the airport. Yes, his house is still intact, and my what a lovely house it is.
I generally begin a chronological description of my experience, but this time I am compelled to describe my feelings. I have to admit to feeling inspired after visiting Alberto’s house. It’s a sunny place full of children (Alberto has 4), and creativity. I imagine the energy there brimming out of cracks and windows, and doors slowly permeating through the neighborhood. There is a ladder against a tree in the back yard that leads to nowhere, or perhaps anywhere you want.
Back inside Alberto gave us a tour of his house. It was a little crowded when we all piled into the bathroom to listen to him describe the renovation. He noted that he had purposely had the tiles replaced to match with some original tiles. He showed us through the rest of his colorful second floor, and on the way back down the stairs I noticed a large zebra head I hadn’t noticed on the way up. It’s pretty perfectly placed, it made me laugh out loud.
I heard about Alberto’s project A Personal Dinner Invitation, and knew I had to try to interview him. Not only does Alberto cook, but he organizes mysterious dinners for strangers as part of an ongoing project. When I asked Alberto to participate in my project he told me he didn’t really have a recipe, and that he cooked with what was on hand at the house, creating as he went. Perhaps to make the evening a miniature version of the project, Alberto had a mystery guest over to dinner. The guest would be collaborating with Madeleine, Alberto’s eldest daughter, who is a budding musician.
While we were cooking Alberto’s wife Sonia whipped up a batch of hibiscus sangria. Their general take on sangria is to mix a lime-ade base with wine, fruit and hibiscus tea. I’d never prepared hibiscus tea. It stains everything a satisfyingly bright purple. I was inspired by the possibilities for using it in desserts after discovering it here, and will certainly spend some time experimenting with it. Alberto also showed us the simplest salad to make with cabbage. It was literally fresh cabbage, salt, pepper, lime and a splash of olive oil. It has to be the most refreshing salad I’ve experienced in some time. We have already made it at home since conducting this interview. It was that tasty.
“My favorite thing is an empty refrigerator. You have to earn it by using everything efficiently. It’s kind of like torture.”
As if Alberto wasn’t whipping up enough tasty food already, he opted to make a great appetizer that was a lot like a ceviche. Meanwhile, back at the stove he was also preparing cauliflower, peas and curry sauce for the main dish. After cooking we ate outside where it was still sunny. The kids have a trampoline out there, and boy do they put it to good use.
After dinner Alberto’s children, Madeleine, Isabella, Paolo, and Joaquin got to play with Inside the Artist’s Kitchen’s very own Michael Soto. We had heard that it was a musical house ahead of time, and Michael had brought his viola along. Soon the room was filled with the sounds of the viola, a drum, a mandoline and a marimba. It was an exciting cap to an evening filled with good conversation and food.
A few more fun things we found around the house: