The dining room of my grandma's villa, nestled just outside the medieval walls of Bologna, is perfectly ready to host the year's most exclusive and important dinner party. There are crystal chalices for the wine. Plates are disposed on the table at a palm's distance from one another, the bowls shine waiting to be filled with precious hand-crafted, doughy miracles. Light dances across the family silver-forks, knives and spoons that have born silent witness to this family's banquets for hundreds of years, have seen more tortellini than any family member at the table and practically sing to each other about the glorious shapes of pasta they will cup. Bite after bite we finish the first plate of tortellini, then, just for the kids, a second plate is served with fresh heavy cream, a different connotation, not so traditional as the broth, but no less appetizing. (The adults never eat it this way-though that doesn't stop me from still partaking every now and then.) The tortellini are evaluated extremely carefully in regards to their flavor, shape, density and preparation. Each one of us gives his own assessment, all of which are collected by my aunt, so the following Christmas while she prepares the tortellini, she'll be able to use the negative and positive comments about this year's batch to make improvements, continuing the quest for pasta perfection. That's how the passion for cooking was transmitted through my family: at my grandma Maddalena's table. And it passed from her down to my mother and my aunts and finally to the kids, we three cousins, each of us the only child of one of the three Bini sisters, each of us now all grown-up, yet still enchanted by those magical Christmas dinners. Spending four hours at the Christmas table wasn't a torture but a pleasure, especially for us kids, never knowing what was going to be the next dish, but secure that it would be amazing.