“Sex and the City meets Moonstruck … this first in a new trilogy from Trigiani is sly, sensual and dripping in style.” –People
“Very Valentine may be [Trigiani’s] best work to date… Delightful, energetic… Trigiani is a seemingly effortless storyteller.” –Boston Globe
“Valentine is one of Adriana Trigiani’s most winsome characters (yes, she even rivals the Big Stone Gap gang)…. Brava, Valentine is laugh-out-loud funny…but it’s also an unexpectedly poignant examination of the power and pull of family, faith and love.” –BookPage
“New York ambition clashes with dolce vita ease in Trigiani’s delicious [The Supreme Macaroni Company]. . . . Feisty and poignant . . . Readers will root for Valentine and the lessons she learns–which apply equally to designing elegant shoes and to crafting a rewarding life.” –People
4 pieces of veal cut in scaloppini style, weighing about ¼ pound each
2 eggs, beaten
Dried bread crumbs, using plain bread
1/3 cup butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, 1 quartered
Flatten the veal with a mallet. Dip each piece into the beaten egg and then the bread crumbs.
Melt the butter in a large skillet and fry the veal for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until the pieces brown.
Move to a warmed serving dish and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the lemon wedge.
Serves 6 to 8
3 large oranges
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel the oranges and slice about ¼ inch thick. Remove the seeds. Place the oranges on a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Grind fresh pepper on top. Serve.
1. Valentine Roncalli begins her tale with the words, “I am not the pretty sister. I’m not the smart sister either. I am the funny one.” How does her outlook color her actions? What do you think of Valentine? Do you agree with her assessment or do you think she might be selling herself short?
2. One of the major themes of Very Valentine is family. Describe the Roncalli family. How does their bond enrich Valentine’s life? How might it affect her adversely, both in her romantic and professional endeavors? Offer some examples from the novel.
3. What defines family for the Roncallis? How would you fit into Valentine’s family? What defines family for you? What is your family life like now and what were your experiences growing up?
4. Compare Valentine with her mother, Michelina (“Mike”), and her grandmother, Teodora. What elements of her personality does Valentine get from both women? Does she take after one more than the other?
5. Valentine’s sister-in-law, Pam, has a difficult time fitting into the Roncalli family. How much of this is the result of her own actions? Are the Roncalli sisters responsible as well?
6. Tradition is another them of Very Valentine. Her sister Tess calls Valentine traditional, yet Valentine disagrees. “I guess I appear to be one of my tribe, but the truth is, whenever I have the opportunity to walk the hard line of tradition, I balk.” Is Tess right, does Valentine represent tradition? How does she balk at it, as she claims? Which sister has the more realistic view?
7. Valentine ponders the question: “How do we survive in a contemporary world without losing everything my great-grandfather built?” Is there a role for tradition and traditional craftsmen and artisans in our technologically dependent modern world?
8. What does tradition mean for your life? Are there any you particularly cherish that have been handed down through past generations? How do you keep traditions alive? How can you start new ones?
9. Romantic love and the yearning for it infuse the novel. Valentine is a single woman in a world seemingly defined by marriage. Can a woman be fulfilled and yet remain single? Can she be happy without a man?
10. Describe Valentine’s love interests, Roman and Gianluca. What does each man provide that the other doesn’t? Did you prefer one to the other? Do you think she could be happy with either of them—or someone like either of them?
11. When Roman tells her that he will be few days late meeting her in Capri, what do you think about her reaction to his news? What about when he cancels on her?
12. What role did the trip to Capri play in Valentine and Roman’s relationship?
13. The Roncalli family offers numerous insights, both profound and humorous for Valentine. Her mother tells, “You see, that’s when you know for sure somebody loves you. They figure out what you need and they give it to you—without you asking.” What do you think of this view of love?
14. Mike also advises her daughter, “I believe in setting goals that one can achieve. Low expectations make for a happy life.” Can not expecting much make you happy? How? What would happen to Valentine if she followed this advice?
15. When talking to her father, Valentine discovers that he has a spiritual philosophy: “What about me is eternal?” How would you answer this question? Besides children, what might you leave to future generations?
16. Throughout the novel, Valentine works hard to save the Angelini Shoe Company. If she is successful, she gains stability. What do you think will happen if she fails?
17. Valentine describes the art of making shoes: “My grandmother has taught me that the palette for leather and suede is limitless, like musical notes.” What do our shoes say about ourselves? How is Valentine’s passion, making shoes, a metaphor for her life?
18. In Adriana Trigiani’s vivid prose, New York City and Italy are like “characters” in the book. Describe Valentine’s New York. How does “her” city compare to the New York you might know of—or have imagined? What is Italy like through her eyes? What does each place offer Valentine?
19. What does Valentine learn about herself in Italy? How do those lessons affect her?
20. What do you think of Teodora’s news? Why do you think she kept her relationship a secret all those years?
21. At the end of the novel, Valentine turns away from both Roman and Gianluca. “In this moment, I choose art.” Is this the right choice for her? What might it mean for her and for the Angelini Shoe Company? Does she have to choose love and career?
23. What did you learn from Valentine’s experiences? What advice would you give her about her love life and her career?
1. How would you describe Valentine? What’s your favorite thing about her?
2. If you read the first novel, how have lost loves, family dramas, and professional opportunities impacted Valentine? How do they affect her over the course of this chapter in her life?
3. Do you think Valentine is like most contemporary American women?
4. What role does Valentine play in the Roncalli family? How do the Roncallis define family? How is their notion of family challenged when they learn about their relatives in Argentina?
5. What does Valentine think about Gianluca, and how does she feel about him? How does she react when she receives his handwritten letters? Over the course of the story, do her feelings for him change—or her understanding of those feelings? What does Valentine want from love?
6. Speaking of love, June tells Valentine, “The only urgent thing in life is the pursuit of love. You get that one right, and you’ve solved the mystery.” Do you agree with this? Is love the most important thing in life?
7. Compare and contrast the men in Valentine’s life, including her father, her brother Alfred, Brett, Gabriel, and Gianluca. What does each man offer her?
8. Though Valentine misses living and working with her grandmother, she has her beloved employee (and honorary Roncalli) June. How does June influence Valentine? What is your opinion of June?
9. What is the importance of scent in the book? What are Valentine’s favorite smells and the associations she has with them? Do you have a favorite smell?
10. One of the novel’s themes is trust. Why is trust difficult for Valentine? How do we learn to trust someone? What happens when that trust is shaken? Can it be rebuilt? How are these lessons demonstrated in the various marriages and relationships, from Valentine’s parents to Brett’s marriage to Mackenzie, Alfred and Pam to Valentine and Gianluca, and even Gram and Dominic?
11. Bret tells Valentine that marriage is a lot of work, but she thinks it should be the easy part. Can it be both? What is your view of marriage? Would you recommend it?
12. Valentine’s mother, Mike, built her life upon the philosophy, “One god, one man, one life.” What would Valentine’s philosophy be? Do you have a personal philosophy?
13. What happens when Val goes to Buenos Aires? How does that trip affect her professionally and personally?
14. Valentine is the “sole custodian of our family history, and not because anyone asked me to be. The truth is, no one else is interested in the contents of these dusty old boxes, nor do they want to store them. I’m the only Angelini who treasures these old documents and is inspired by them.” Why is the past important to her? Do you have a family custodian? Why don’t Americans seem to care about the past?
15. Gram’s move to Italy means Valentine must sort through the furniture, boxes, and documents she left behind. “Our history can only be told through the things she saved, and now that Gram is gone, it’s left to me to decide worth saving.” How does she learn to decide what’s worth saving? What would your things say about your life story? Do you have any special objects you want your children to have and pass down to their children?
16. Forgiveness is a central theme of Brava, Valentine. What does forgiveness mean to the person receiving it—and to the person offering it? Why do some people struggle with forgiveness? Is there any transgression too big to be forgiven?
17. What are Valentina’s inspirations for her work? How does she keep her creativity fresh?
18. Gram advises her that the key to creativity is for an artist to leave her comfort zone. How can trying something new be stimulating?
19. Tradition is also very important to Valentine. “Gianluca taught me that tradition isn’t something we do, it’s the way we are.” Explain.
20. What challenges do you think lie ahead for Valentine?
1. Describe Valentine and Gianluca’s relationship. Is he the true love she has waited for?
2. What are the biggest obstacles to their happiness as a couple? What are their greatest strengths? What does Val expect from marriage? How does the reality compare? What makes for a good marriage? Is it realistic to want it all?
3. Think about the advice Val received from her family. If you are or have been married, what advice would you give her? If you aren’t married what do you think marriage might be like?
4. Is Gianluca a good husband? Is Valentine a good wife? How much can their differences be attribute to age? To gender? To culture? Do you think they found the right balance in their relationship?
5. Is having such a large and close family like the Roncalli clan a blessing? Are there any downsides? What is your family like? How do our families impact our romantic relationships?
6. Talk about Val’s wedding. Do you like the idea of a big wedding? If you are married, what was your day like? If not, what kind of wedding would you like to have?
7. Keeping secrets partially define Val and Gianluca’s relationship. What information do they keep from each other and how do they affect the course of their lives? What is the biggest secret they each keep from the other?
8. Gianluca wants them to live in Italy. Why doesn’t Val want to? Is it possible for them to live part time in both NewYork and Italy while still building the business?
9. Val not only married an older man,she married one who was married before. How do both of these facts shape her marriage? What is it like for her to meet Gianluca’s first wife? Why doesn’t he like to talk about his first marriage with Val? Why does she need to know about his past?
10. What does building the business mean to Valentine? Is Gianluca right–does she put her ambition ahead of her family? How do we juggle both? How does Val?
11. How does Alfie impact their relationship and Val’s ambitions?
12. Were you surprised about the turn of events toward the end of the novel? How does Val handle this change? How does her family help her get through it? Should Gianluca have told her about the house? Didn’t she have a right to weigh in with her opinion? Did he do the right thing?
13. What do you think the future holds for Val?
14. Discuss the books title. Do you think it is appropriate for the story? What did Val gain in this novel? What lessons did she learn?
15. What did you take away from reading The Supreme Macaroni Company?