Pietro Alessandro Bonamico (Piero) was born on July 8, 1929, in Genoa, Italy, and moved permanently to the United States in 1971. He became a naturalized citizen in 1976. In the first half of his life, he experienced the atrocities of war, a trek across Europe, a globe-spanning career on the high seas, and ultimately, the love story that brought him to settle in Barre and become a stay-at-home dad, gardener, pizza chef, and member of the Presbyterian Church Choir.
During his adolescence, Genoa was a frequent target of Allied bombings. Food was scarce, his family was displaced, and he learned the value of food not only as sustenance but as social currency. In war-ravaged Italy, vegetables smuggled from the countryside could be traded for shelter, and a bottle of wine could facilitate passage through a checkpoint. His willingness to find these essentials caught the eye of young Fascists who indoctrinated him into their crew. This difficult period of Piero's life was documented in "Il Resolto" by Italian filmmaker Giovanni Donfrancesco.
After the war, Piero made his way to France, learned the language, and began working in kitchens in Strasbourg. From there, he moved on to London and learned the intricacies of first-class service at the Savoy Hotel. There, he saw the opportunities on the grand ocean liners of the day and returned to Genoa's docks to secure a job with the Italian Line.
It was on one of these voyages that he met Lee Aura Sanguinetti and fell in love. The dashing, multilingual, man-in-perpetual-motion followed her to small-town Vermont. Once again, it was food that opened doors for Piero. His enormous hands and boisterous personality, along with pizzas, lasagnas, veal "birds," and pesto brought people together. From his kitchen table to Waitsfield's Beef and Bottle in the '70s, Angelino's Pizza in the '90s, Presbyterian Church banquets, Spaulding High School Music Department Fundraisers, Polenta festivals, and private parties, Piero thrived. The final expression came when Miche Porier built a beautiful granite pizza oven for his garden. Here, he perfected his recipe for the dough cooked in the 750˚ oven and hosted dozens of parties for friends, neighbors, and community groups, including the Aldrich Public Library and the Mad River Chorale. He was at his zenith when children were involved, singing with them as he taught them to make their pizzas. The boy who starved on the streets of Genoa became a man surrounded by children, slinging pizzas one after another into an outdoor oven on beautiful summer days.
Ultimately, the people with whom he foraged mushrooms on damp autumnal mornings in Peacham or those summoned to his studio where the desk was covered with note-filled pads and books stacked five tall knew him best and learned from the wisdom of his words. These, along with his cooking and singing, will be missed.