Voglio una casa, la voglio bella

Piena di luce come una stella

Piena di sole e di fortuna

E sopra il tetto spunti la luna

Piena di riso, piena di pianto

Casa di sogno, di sogno tanto.

I want a house, I want it to be beautiful

Filled with brightness like a star

Filled with sunshine and good fortune

And for the moon to rise above the roof

Filled with laughter, filled with tears.

House, I dream of you, how I dream of you!

(Lucilla Galleazzi’s words to a traditional Sicilian melody)

This song has always been on our restaurant playlist and comes from the very special album All’Improvviso by Christina Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata. I like to play it early in the evening during our dinners because to me it is an ideal welcome to our house.

The idea of a house with a spirit of its is part of my heritage. My parents bought a rundown Baltimore rowhouse in 1972 and decided that they wanted to find a way to use it. It had an old-fashioned “storefront” and they asked themselves, what could we make and sell here? With an interest in woodworking and a lot of hard work, they trained themselves to make beautiful, simple, durable wooden toys and they operated the Marvelous Toy Works out of that storefront for 17 years. As a child, I watched the toys as they were made in the garage woodshop and sold in the storefront (plenty of them ending up in the house with my brother and me), and I traveled with my parents to the arts-and-crafts fairs. Because it existed before the internet, I can’t give you any link at all to information on that wonderful business that closed in 1994 after more than twenty years — but a beautiful business it was indeed, and a great way to grow up. My parents’ vision was of classic toys that would be affordable heirlooms. Now our sons play with them, too. It all started with the house.

My parents were the ones who drew us back to this area, northeastern Pennsylvania, having left Baltimore to purchase their property here in 1991. They have used it well: developing extensive gardens, orchard, berry bushes, now a young forest in the wetland area. As we grow our vegetables and serve our dinners we are constantly assisted by them — especially in the care of two sons — and it’s a good way to live. Just like my parents, Justin and I also found ourselves drawn to a house because of what we might do with it. Not merely how we might furnish and improve it, but how we might use it. When we first entered 1432 Old Tioga Turnpike, we fell in love with the broad 19th century hardwood floors and the tall windows set deeply in thick walls. You could say we were not free from then on. Falling in love with a house can be dangerous. Walking through the empty rooms we had hundreds of dreams for them. “This would be a great house for someone who wants to run a bed and breakfast,” Justin said, telling me of it after his first visit (I joined him on a later walk-through). Of course, we had no plans to do that. Although we were already teaching cooking classes out of our apartment in Wilmington, Delaware, we didn’t envision what our business would eventually become — the smallest of very small restaurants, dining rooms graced with age and history and hospitality. Every time I prepare for one of our dinners, I am filled with a sense of gratitude to this noble house. It does feel like it called us and chose us as its caretakers.

It is a true delight to serve people in our dining room who have been in our house before — in some cases, forty years before — as guests of previous owners. They know this house. It might be “the Hough place” to them, or “the Danglers'” — both previous owners — or even “the George Washington house”, as one young woman told me she’s always thought of it, due to its age. Just this evening, one of our guests was remembering the time she spent in this house when she was in 5th grade, visiting her friend. She spoke of remembering the great fireplace, of the big family dinners, and she told me how much she loved this house. The chance to connect with our community and to open this house to it is a thrill and a great privilege. The house wants to be filled with people, with food, with fellowship. To serve in the large dining room, surrounded by those deep windows, next to the fireplace that is nearly five feet tall, walking on those very old wood floors, always gives me a great sense of grace.

Voglio una casa, per tanta gente

La voglio solida ed accogliente,

Robusta e calda, semplice e vera

Per farci musica matina e sera

E la poesia abbia il suo letto

Voglio abitare sotto a quel tetto.

I want a house, for lots of people, 

I want it to be strong and welcoming, 

Firm and warm, simple and real, 

For making music morn and eve, 

And where poetry would have its bed; 

I want to live under that roof. 

Dillon