On Nov. 19, I went out to dinner with my mom, dad and friend Lena. My parents were in New Haven for the weekend to watch a couple of my basketball games. After much debate and Yelp searching, we decided to try a restaurant that none of us had ever been to: Skappo Italian Wine Bar. Little did I know, that night I would meet Anna Sincavage, a woman who would have a profound impact on me. The food at Skappo was delectable, and we were already well-pleased with our choice when Anna came out from the back of the restaurant to greet us at our table. Her immediately palpable love for life consumed us. I knew the moment I met her that I needed to talk to her again. Anna, her husband Thomas and their three children do not simply run a restaurant business; they foster a love of food, human connection and hope for the human spirit.
I emailed Anna to ask if we could meet, and she was delighted to oblige. The conversation flowed inevitably as Anna’s passion for food and culture seemed to pour from her soul. She believes that we are all one with food. This stems back to her upbringing in Italy (she was born and raised in Assisi). Her community was very spiritual and connected to nature. “We had monks, and if a branch of a tree was broken, they would have a procession because Mother Nature was hurt,” she recalled.
Just like the Italian monks, Anna values all of nature’s gifts, especially food. She told me, “food was created by Mother Nature for us, to give us a continuation of life — a union with the world around us.” She explained to me “the beautiful harmony” that exists in the many gifts of the natural world, and that it is our duty to use these gifts responsibly so that we are able to grow into our best selves. Anna says, “Food for us — in this very Italian, traditional family — is not something that you put on a dish. Food is yourself. There is a spiritual connection with food. When you give food to a person you are involved spiritually and physically with that person.”
With a smile across her face, Anna recalled the first time she saw the man who would become her husband: “On the third of June, 1973 at 3:30 in the afternoon, I saw an American student.” She moved to America that same year, and the creative student, Thomas Sincavage, became her husband in 1976. The union of these two people from vastly different cultures would prove to be a blessing for those lucky enough to experience the restaurant that they created together. In 1989, Anna’s father was not in good health. He believed, however, that it was important to live your life until the last moment. He and Anna’s mother visited the United States that year, and what he told Anna has stuck with her to this day. He said, “Anna, continue to celebrate life.” Her father went back to Italy and passed away shortly after. This was a very difficult time for her, but she soon knew exactly what she wanted to do. There was no better way for her to honor the lives of her father and mother than through food. With her husband Thomas and three grown children Michael, Yvette and Marc, she opened Skappo. Just as her father ran his own store in Italy, she worked to keep his spirit alive through Skappo: “For us, when a person comes through the door and wants a moment of relaxation, we will sustain them with protein and carbs, but also we want to sustain their spirit.” Anna worries that food has become a highly commercialized object in America, so she works to keep the deeply personal and spiritual connection surrounding food alive with every person who enters Skappo.
As we sat eating in Skappo on that November night, Anna told Lena and me that we were her future. Simply by speaking with her and eating the food deeply rooted in her culture, we were partaking in the great continuation and circle of life made possible through food. The comfort, peace, and pure joy I experienced in Skappo was unlike any restaurant experience I have ever had. Anna Sincavage is able to create a space that shatters pre-conceived notions of stuffy, formal restaurants by making her patrons feel at home. People come to Skappo for the delicious food, but they also come to share in the love that flows so graciously out of Anna Sincavage. In a time when we encounter such division and discord in our world, Anna’s presence provides a peaceful and refreshing experience of hope.