Give a Chef for the Holidays

La Speranza Cucina Italiana, 452-7517

Between 1976 and 1985, in what had been a rustic brick beer joint on the corner of Fourth and Colorado, Speranza's Italian Home Cooking sat. It was small – eight tables in all – and you had to book ahead; it held 40 max, and there were two seatings a night. If you were lucky enough to get a table, you were privy to the most exclusive reservation in town. Michael and Hallie Speranza ran a small restaurant serving a fixed-course authentic Italian meal that even today causes the old customers to go into spontaneous salivation when the name is mentioned.

The recipes came from Michael's Italian family and from a stay in Philadelphia, with its great Italian markets and delis. Their cooking knowledge grew with repeated trips to Italy to study the cuisine. The restaurant didn't last, but Hallie is back. Now the venue is your own kitchen and dining room; Hallie comes to you.

The process is simple: You select a custom menu from the extensive list of dishes on her website (or pick your own favorites), decide the number of your group and whether you want it casual or formal, and Hallie arrives to cook and serve the meal under your own roof. If there's enough room, she can even turn it in to a hands-on cooking lesson for your group.

This is a perfectly delicious gift for dear friends. What could be better than Austin's best home-style, traditional Italian cuisine, prepared just for you and yours in the comfort of your own home?

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