Playwright Franco D’Alessandro brings the Joy of Life to the Stage and Kitchen

I first became acquainted with Playwright Franco D’Alessandro in 2002 when his play Roman Nights about the relationship between Tennessee Williams and actress Anna Magnani was creating buzz around Downtown Manhattan. Actress Isabella Rossellini attended the premiere. The play was knocking the socks off of theatergoers at Union Square’s Daryl Roth 2 Theatre. It was brilliantly produced by Brooklyn native Suzanne Corso. After it’s off-Broadway success the production of Roman Nights went worldwide in numerous languages with 24 award nominations.

Franco refined his craft of playwriting by spending time in Montauk with his mentor, the late great playwright Edward Albee. Franco was selected by Albee to attend his prestigious workshop for distinguished playwrights at the Barn. Albee’s influence in D’Alessandro’s work is evident in his masterful command of dialogue. Another profound influence on D’Alessandro’s work and life was his close friendship with Academy Award Winning actress Olympia Dukakis who passed away in May. He calls Dukakis “ a force of nature!” Similar to Dukakis he has an extremely bold approach to his art.

In 2009 D’Alessandro Finishing Line Press published D’Alessandro’s first collection of poetry entitled Supplications: Immediate Poems of Loss and Love. This first small collection of poems was endorsed by the Italian American Writers Association and was nominated for a New England PEN Award.

Over a decade ago I visited Franco at his summer house in Newport, Rhode Island and soon found out that he’s also a powerhouse artist in the kitchen, whipping up flavorful dishes of fish and pasta. He shared one of his trademark recipes with us to try at home.

Spaghetti al Circeo

Franco created this dish in Newport, RI after returning from a month-long trip to Italy (Rome, Amalfi, Cilento); it is inspired by San Felice Circeo, the secluded beach town where iconic Italian actress, Anna Magnani, spent her summers.

  • 1lb spaghetti (or thick/Perciatelli, thin/Cappellini)
  • 8 tablespoons very good extra Vergine Olive Oil 7 + 1 to drizzle at the end.
  • 2 big lemons (juice and zest)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • Red pepper   1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt (for water) + 1 teaspoon
  • Black Pepper 10 twists
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 cup grated cheese (1/2 pecorino 1/2 parmigiano.)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
  • *optional – 2 cups of chopped, fresh or baby spinach or rapini /broccoli rape florets 

Using a vegetable peeler, remove two 2″-long strips of lemon zest. Thinly slice each strip lengthwise into thin strands; set aside for serving.

Boil pasta (10-12mins) in salted water.

In a large sauté pan, sauté finely chopped garlic in 6 tablespoons EV olive oil until pale golden (do not brown!)  Add red pepper, salt.  *Add spinach if you are using it.  Take off flame and add the juice of both lemons and zest of one and butter and whisk it to a creamy texture.  Let sit.

In a small mixing bowl add chopped basil and parsley and lemon zest and cheese, black pepper, and mix.

Drain pasta (leave a little wet) and add back to the hot sauté pan with the juice, garlic, olive oil, butter.  Toss quickly and vigorously… add the above herb/seasoning mixture slowly and toss.

Divide pasta among bowls. Season with pepper, cheese, EVOO then top with reserved lemon zest strips and serve!

*Grilled shrimp are a great addition to this if it is the only course.

Franco also shared one of his poems.


for Maria Morreale

It is hard, sometimes, to see you

Squinting eyes, walking the Foro Antico,

Combing piazzas, looking up— 

Passing these bright, blue days…

Trying not to notice the pieces of you falling away,

Gazing upon your crumbling pieces of eternity.

Just lingering longer; enough to savor you .

But then, amongst your sea of discoveries,

I find I’m losing the ways to recognize you, again,

I don’t know what is trickier; your face or my memory?

I slide down off the Lungotevere and hide out in the Via Giulia

Hoping you won’t see me puzzling at your fading visage.

The gurgling fountains, your steady breath—

Remind me of the ancient times

I try to recapture in a gaze.

I want to see you again; the way you were,

Without the stultifying buzz of electricity.

You glow better by gaslight or a lantern’s flame. 

The great luminous beauty-unmarred by vapidity

This backward haze and these unforgiving days

Show the lines and ravages of modernity,

That bring you such undeserved shame.

The chariots have been replaced with Vespas

And the fiats that once fell from Caesar’s mouth,

Today hum along your serpentine streets, blocking your veins.

I wander through you -feeling the pulse that has pumped-

All these centuries, hypnotized by its beat, contemplating the change.

But I cannot escape you…

These vias and viales are somehow still the same,

Still holding secrets filled with joy and pride and pain.

Purchase Franco D’Alessandro’s collection of 30 years of poems titled Everything is Something Else

Franco D’Alessandro is a playwright, poet, and educator. The Irish-Italian-American writer is the author of the poetry books Supplicati:ons and Everything is Something Else, as well as a dozen plays, including the published dramas, Stranger Love: Five Short Plays and the internationally acclaimed play Roman Nights, which explores the tumultuous lives of stage and screen legends Anna Magnani and Tennessee Williams. This play -a critical and commercial success around the world- has grossed over $1million in ticket sales and is now being adapted for a feature film. D’Alessandro’s writing and poetry have appeared in a range of national and international print and media spaces. His plays have been published or produced in eight languages in over 11 countries on four continents. A New York native (Westchester and NYC), D’Alessandro holds a Master’s Degree in English education from Fordham University and speaks fluent English, Italian, and basic Gaeilge. D’Alessandro teaches English and playwriting at the prestigious Bronxville School and is an adjunct professor of playwriting at Sarah Lawrence College; he also conducts Master Classes in 20th century American Drama and playwriting at various universities and conservatories around the world.  Everything is Something Else (Finishing Line Press, 2021) marks the publication of the first major collection of D’Alessandro’s poetry. It is already receiving outstanding reviews. Follow him on Instagram @IrishItalianFrankie

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