Master Chef of Authentic Southern Italian Cuisine

Sandra was barely tall enough to sit at her grandparent’s kitchen table while her Grandmother, Teresa Notte Cicchino, chopped and cleaned fresh, colorful vegetables and herbs from the garden. Grandma prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner with fresh foods. She taught Sandra that food is precious and must be treated with care during the preparation and cooking process. Nothing went to waste in Grandma’s kitchen. Sandra learned that meat is a compliment to a meal. That was the beginning of Sandra’s education in cooking Southern Italian meals.

Grandma Teresa made homemade pasta; dark, bitter greens (broccoli rabe, escarole, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens, dandelion and kale); bean and vegetable soups; marinara and meat sauces; aglio olios; and meat, poultry, and fish dishes. Grandma mingled fresh herbs that she grew in her garden in all of her dishes. What Americans call tomato sauce, Italians call gravy. Grandma Teresa made gravy that would make you want to sing! Sandra has duplicated her grandmother’s gravy, and shares that recipe with her clients. Five decades ago, Sandra began watching and learning, then creating and cooking food indigenous to the Molise region in Italy. Being a first-generation Italian-American has forever influenced Sandra's cooking ethic and style.

Today, Sandra teaches others the joy of cooking healthy, Mediterranean dining fare. Sandra enjoys teaching adults and children how to take care of themselves in the kitchen as she shares her recipes, teaches knife skills, shares her expertise on food anthropology along with the nutrition in all foods used in specific recipes. The Feisty Italian started out as a small cooking school. Within months, Sandra's clients were seeking her services as a personal chef. Sandra cooks for groups and parties. Sandra is a life-long professional dancer and a personal trainer.  In 1999, she founded her dance school, Big Apple Belly Dance, located in Manhattan. Sandra is a personal trainer and chef to families, business executives, entrepreneurs, Broadway performers, professional dancers and men and women of all backgrounds.

Sandra is the author of her first cookbook entitled, The Feisty Italian Cookbook

To book a service with Sandra and to purchase her cookbook, The Feisty Italian Cookbook, call 917-257-8917 or e-mail

"I love, love, love Sandra Catena! I used to be the person who couldn't boil water. Three months ago, Sandra taught me how to cook Southern Italian food. Today I know how to take care of myself in the kitchen."     Stephanie P.

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