A season of new beginnings brings a farewell

by April Lisante
Posted 3/31/22

For the past three years in the pages of the Chestnut Hill Local, I have been so fortunate to be able to write about what I love most: food.

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A season of new beginnings brings a farewell

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Spring has arrived, and with it, a chance for rebirth.

Next month is my namesake month. Each year when it rolls around, and I see my April lilac bush start to regenerate, I embrace the time with positivity and a forward-thinking attitude. 

For the past three years in the pages of the Chestnut Hill Local, I have been so fortunate to be able to write about what I love most: food.

Food is life. Food brings us together. And food is a universal language we all speak. That is perhaps why I love it so much - because I love people.

 I decided to pursue journalism to tell people’s stories, and to effect change. Whether it was hard news or features, I loved it all, but above all else, I loved writing about food - the thing that defined my Italian heritage and spoke so deeply to me since I was a child. No matter what, no matter how poor my immigrant grandparents were, somehow they always set a Sunday table with pasta. 

I spent nearly ten years doing a food section at the Philadelphia Daily News, and loved writing about restaurants, chefs and trends. Having Food Network’s Bobby Flay come to do a story with me at the paper was a particularly big bonus. Sigh. 

So three years ago, while I was in the throes of freelance work, I sent a sample food column to former Local editor Pete Mazzacarro. I wanted to write about food, but I wanted to do it in my own community. Pete said sure, let’s do this every week, so you can keep the momentum going. So I did. And starting this past September, I have been honored to submit my columns to editor Carla Robinson, a longtime colleague, and the best in the business.

But the time has come for me to hang up my apron, so to speak. This will be my last column, because I will be moving on to other endeavors. I’d like to write children’s books about food. I may also scrape out that cookbook I’ve been ruminating about for a while. 

But I can’t move on before I thank all the readers who’ve taken this journey with me, and read all my weekly rantings about everything from food gadgets to restaurant trends and everything in between. Whether I was going on and on about my New York grandmother’s red gravy, or the pointlessness of Yelp reviews, you were with me all the way.

I live in this community and my children are in local schools, so the sheer joy I experienced getting to know all the people I’ve met through my column can’t really be expressed in words. I was able to learn what made our food scene tick, and to meet countless chefs, business owners and community volunteers who are the backbone of the Hill and neighborhoods nearby. I’ll forever have an acute addiction to Karla’s Kitchen empanadas, and an absolute awe for the mastery of chef David Jansen in a kitchen. 

I’m eternally grateful to all the businesses who spoke with me, taught me, and honored me with their stories. I also was deeply moved to learn who was responsible for feeding those in need in our community – yes that’s you Meals on Wheels Flourtown, Face to Face Germantown and all the local churches I’ve documented along the way. Meals on Wheels is around the corner from my house. I didn’t even know that prior to writing the column - that they were just a stone’s throw from my home and working every day to feed our community.

I learned how tightly-knit our restaurant community is here on the Hill, and how the passion and dedication of stalwarts who line the Avenue are truly what keep our enclave vibrant. Women who own businesses on the Hill deserve a tremendous shout out for their commitment here, I learned very early on.

I was never a chef, nor a food expert, but as I once did at the Philadelphia Daily News, I approached the food scene here on the Hill as a beat. I was learning every single time I spoke with someone about food, or was looking for the trends, people and experiences that our readers might be interested in. A vegan restaurant on the Ave.! A new ice cream place in Oreland beside the basketball courts! A new brewery to complement the Farmer’s Market! I got excited to tell everyone, and to hear the stories behind the new places. 

I loved writing about table settings, kitchen gadgets, holidays, and new foods. I especially loved watching chefs cook and hearing about their traditions. I also adored throwing in superfluous details about my own life, my kids and my passion for food – we love the TikTok quadrant tortillas that anyone could have concocted years ago but TikTok made famous! 

Hopefully, because I did all of this during quarantine time, between the days I spent painting every room in the house, I didn’t bore you to tears. 

When I stopped to think about it, much of my column for more than a year was written during the pandemic. I was proud to be able to write about the local restaurants and people who helped the Hill survive and thrive despite what felt like insurmountable odds.

It will probably be a while before I can walk the Avenue without thinking to myself “Hey that would be a great food story!” And it will probably be even longer before I can sit in a restaurant without trying to interview the chef after the meal. And I will probably always miss the satisfaction of connecting with someone who is special to our food community, and helping to present their story. 

But the time has come. Thank you for going on this journey with me. It has been an honor and a pleasure to have you read my thoughts about food – and life. Salute!

Editor’s note: I hate to say goodbye to April, whose weekly columns have always been an editor’s dream - on time, clean as a whistle and infinitely interesting. But she’s also a friend, so I can’t help but wish her all the best with her next chapter. Thank you, April. We’ll miss you.

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