When Frances Grego Krull thinks of Sioux City's Turin Inn -- a popular supper club owned by her grandparents Charlie and Mary Chide Prochelo from the 1920s to 1960s -- she remembers the stand-up comics who would headline every evening and the beautiful showgirls who would bring down the curtains by dancing to "Lullaby of Broadway."
Mostly, she remembers the authentic Italian food served by her grandmother at the Turin Inn's former 1100 Steuben St. location.
"My grandmother was a wonderful cook," the Sioux City native now living in Lincoln explained. "Watching her cook in a kitchen was like watching a brilliant musical director conduct an orchestra. It was masterful."
Krull has written "Favorite Italian Recipes," a book which not only features many of Mary Prochelo's favorite recipes from the Turin Inn but also serves as a biography of an extended Italian family living out its version of the American dream.
"I originally wrote the book in 1981 but I wanted to update it this year," Krull said. "My family first came to Sioux City 99 years ago. I wanted my book to come out prior to their centennial year."
Krull will be signing copies of "Favorite Italian Recipes" from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Sioux City Gifts, 1922 Pierce St. In addition, "La Famiglia" -- a DVD by filmmakers George Lindblade, Lou Ann Lindblade and Christine McAvoy that features interviews and archival photos of the Turin Inn -- will be available for purchase.
"I won't just be signing books at the book signing," she said. "There may be some Italian dancing plus I may make a few Italian dishes."
Your grandparents paved the way for future immigrant families in Sioux City. That was literally the case for your grandfather, who was actually a paver, right?
"Yes, my grandfather helped to pave Fourth Street in the early days. Then, the 'Roaring Twenties' came around and my grandparents opened the Reggio Inn, which was one of the most popular places in town. When that burned down, they decided to rebuild and call their new nightspot the Turin Inn. Even though we specialized in Italian food, we also has great steak and ribs."
There were quite a few celebrities who performed at the Turin Inn during its heyday. Do you remember any of the big name stars?
"While we had wonderful local acts like The Velaires, the Turin Inn also booked people like (actor) Lionel Stander and (comedian) Shecky Greene. Without a doubt, our biggest celebrity was Jimmy Stewart, who was visiting the Sioux City Air National Guard Base at the time. Jimmy came in for dinner and was so impressed he wanted to kiss the chef, my grandmother. My grandmother remembered that for the rest of her life."
It seemed like your grandmother never really followed recipes. Instead, she had an instinct when it came to cooking.
"That was the hardest thing about writing a cookbook. To my grandmother, recipes were simply a guide. When I'd ask her how much crushed red pepper a dish required, she say it needed a pinch. If it wasn't a pinch of something, it was a handful. But not all hands were the same size, I'd insisted. Still, that's the way she cooked."
Well, that obviously worked for her. I think your dad Pasquale also cooked, right?
"My dad used to make and sell sandwiches to his co-workers every day. If you'd have him over for dinner, dad would take home all of the leftovers. He'd put the leftovers between two pieces of bread and sell what he'd call the 'Pasquale Sandwich."'
That's ingenious. I know you're also a terrific Italian cook. Is that why you wrote your book?
"I wrote the book because I wanted to share my family memories with the community. A lot of people still remember the Turin Inn and this is a way to reconnect with real, old-fashioned comfort food."