Mama Rose’s Italian Tacos. The Saga and the Recipe.

by Shari on August 22, 2012


Every family has its traditions.

Ours requires ten pounds of ground chuck.


And 160 corn tortillas.


When I was growing up, Mama Rose's Italian Tacos were famous in our neighborhood. Whenever she made them, scores of random people would magically appear at the door and invite themselves to dinner. There were contests to see how many you could consume in one sitting. My personal record is 9. But I'm considered a lightweight.

Mama Rose is the first to admit that she did not invent her Italian Tacos. She merely stole the recipe in 1969 from Pat and Tony Greenwald, who moved to Arizona and mysteriously disappeared. Mama Rose would like any of my Arizonian readers to see if they can track down Pat and Tony. We would like to thank them for the recipe that has sustained our family for 43 years.

We make the tacos every time our family is together.

Every. Single. Time.

Over the many years of family vacations, there have been a few variations and additions. There were the Sour Cream Years (1978–1999). There was a brief Cilantro coup, slapped down by the purists. Velveeta was eventually upgraded to real cheese. My sister married her second husband in 2002 and he introduced Dave's Temporary Insanity Hot Sauce into the mix (this offering has been accepted to preserve family unity, but not all partake). Aside from these blips, the recipe has remained exactly the same since the late '60's.

Our entire extended family is on vacation in North Carolina this week. As I watched the taco-blissed faces of my husband, my sister's husband, my sister's ex-husband (yes, both my sister's husbands come on our family vacations, but that's another post for another day), our children, cousins, aunts, uncles, and the one and only Mama Rose, I knew that the time had come to pay it forward.

Pat and Tony Greenwald, wherever you may be, this is your legacy.

Mama Rose's Italian Tacos

Brown 1 lb. of ground chuck, pouring off the fat. Add one pack of Lawry's original taco seasoning and 1/4 cup water, simmer for ten minutes.

Chop lettuce, tomatoes and green onions, place in a large salad bowl.

For The Italian Part of The Italian Tacos, (and Mama Rose would like you to know that these measurements are wild approximations) mix:

1 cup V-8 juice.
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar (or to taste)
1/4 red wine (Chianti or Paisano)
2 Tbs. lemon juice
4 Tbs. sugar (or to taste)
salt to taste
garlic salt to taste
onion salt to taste
1 teaspoon oregano

Add to salad and toss well. Let stand for ten minutes.

Fill a frying pan with two inches of canola oil, heat until extremely hot. With a pair of tongs, add a corn tortilla to the oil and fry very quickly, five seconds on each side, bending into taco shape and remove from oil. Fill hot tortilla with shredded cheddar cheese and let melt.

Construct your taco.

Corn tortilla with melted cheese.
Taco meat.
Italian salad.
Sour Cream (optional)
Cilantro (optional)
Dave Temporary Insanity Sauce (way optional)

Oh, you are so, so welcome.

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