Earlier this year I lost my neighbor Vivian Berghino. We’ve lived next door to Ed & Vivian Berghino for over 5 years now. They were brother and sister connected at the hip. There is a drive way between our kitchen windows, so a ring side seat was always to be had to hear their hot Italian tempers. The Berghinos have lived in their top and bottom duplex since the late 1940’s when their parents bought the 1920’s building. Their parents were Italian immigrants that came to America via Ellis Island in the 20’s to make a better life for themselves. Father Giovanni “Bob” Berghino and Mom Gilda moved the family west from the upper west side of Manhattan in the mid 40’s. Bob opened a bike shop in Beverly Hills called Bob’s Cycles where he was known as the cities best bikesmith. Bob’s Cycle’s was located at the south east corner of Robertson & Wilshire (it’s now a Bank of America).
Gilda & Bob Berghino
When we moved in, I immediately took a liking to Ed Berghino. Something about Ed instantly felt like family to me. Maybe it was the bickering between he and his sister Viv, but most probably it was the warmth I felt being around them. Often I’d hear them outside my window in the morning going back and forth about one thing or the other so I’d go over and join them for a cup of coffee and we’d chat. They’d tell me old stories of their family and the neighborhood while one or the other would invariably disagree with something, anything or everything. When things really got heated they’d curse each other out in Italian. That’s when it really got good! Every Christmas I could always count on a gift of Panettone bread from Ed & Viv and it was usually gone in about an hour . We often talked about food and their Mom cooking rich Northern Italian dishes. One of the recipes was to poach a dozen eggs in heavy cream and a stick of butter & serve over polenta! THAT is my kind of food! You could seriously gain 5 pounds from hearing about the cream sauce dishes their Mama always made. I’ve spent quite a few meals in and out with them. One of our favorite outings is Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake. It’s fun, kitschy and the burgers rock!
Last year I had the neighbors on both sides of me over for Christmas morning breakfast. I made my Mom’s famous Egg Casserole (that’s been handed down from generations) and we all sat and talked about old stories. It was truly a great Christmas morning. I’ve always said that family is about who you want to be with not who you have to be with. The same goes for the Holidays. Viv was such a sweet & caring soul. She taught for most of her life and must’ve been an awesome teacher because she had so many students come back to her later in life to tell her how much she meant to them. I can totally relate to those students and their love for their teahcer. My 7th & 8th grade band teacher changed my life. She said I could do anything in life, anything and everything I wanted to. She had no idea what kind of monster she created! I believed her and have carried her words with me throughout my life. I will forever be indebted to her for believing in me. So for Viv and any teacher that can have such a profound affect on a human being, I say is a Saint.
Here’s Ed and Mom Gilda
A month before Viv passed was the 10th Anniversary of my Grandma Pearls death. Her Birthday was also this month and she would’ve been 86 . My Grandma Pearl taught me so much about cooking and baking. When she died I was left her 60’s avocado green Kitchen Aid mixer, I call Ethel. The thing is a TANK! I love it and don’t think I could possibly live without it. I was also left with her holy grail. Her cookbooks! Both her handwritten recipes and her Better Homes cookbook from the 50’s! These are like bibles to me!! From my Great Grandma Jessie’s lemon meringue pie and her date cookies to Grandpa’s peanut brittle, Grandma Pearls Banana bread and so many more recipes. And of course the ever lovin breakfast casserole I cooked for Ed & Viv last Christmas.
Ed, Viv and Mom Gilda
So dear Viv this blog is dedicated to you and all the teachers whom I believe truly have the most important job in the entire world. To be able to positively influence youth is so empowering and such a huge responsibility that when it is accomplished it should not only be rewarded but remembered and honored and observed forever.
In honor of Viv I give you the recipe for our families Holiday Breakfast Casserole. It’s the last meal I cooked for Viv and it’s something my family LOVES to eat. It’s really easy and tastes awesome!
Holiday Breakfast Casserole
Half loaf (6-8 pieces enough to cover bottom of dish) cheap White Bread like Webers cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 Dozen fresh eggs
4 cups grated cheddar cheese (prepackaged works great but it should be whole milk cheese)
2 tubes of Jimmy Dean ground sausage
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup + 1/2 Cup milk
1/2 cup milk mixed into eggs
Optional Ingredients: Diced bell pepper, diced onion, sliced mushrooms
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 9×12 glass casserole dish.
In frying skillet cook both tubes of ground sausage like you would ground beef for tacos or spaghetti.
While sausage is frying beat 1 dozen eggs with 1/2 cup milk and ground mustard. Slice bread into 1/2 inch cubes and layer the bottom of your casserole. MAKE SURE YOUR DISH IS GREASED. Drain the oil off of your sausage once it is well browned. VERY IMPORTANT TO DRAIN THE SAUSAGE. I know that reads like yelling but learn from my mistakes! Spread the sausage evenly over the bread cubes and then spread an even layer of half the cheese over the sausage (reserving half for the top). If you’re going to use the optional ingredients spread them now (it’s perfectly great without them). Now pour your mixed eggs over the entire dish and spread remaining cheese on top of that. THE SECRET; My family always makes this the night before and puts it in the oven in the morning. This way everything has a chance to really soak in. You can put it in the oven right away as well. Whatever you do DON’T FORGET THE CREAM OF MUSHROOM! When I make it the night before, I always set the can of soup on the stove so that I don’t forget to put it over the top in the morning. To add, in a bowl mix 1/2 cup milk to the can of mushroom soup and pour evenly over entire casserole. I usually bake it for about 45 minutes covered with foil and then another half hour to 45 minutes uncovered. Bake it until it’s bubbling and at least golden brown on top (my family likes it a little more well done on top). Take out and serve immediately.
Serves 8-10 Normal people and 4-6 in my family.
This what it looks like, but it still could be a little more browned.
Happy Arteries!! I mean Holidays!