His recreation is cooking Sunday dinner

Posted: June 05, 2012

Chillin’ Wit’ is a regular feature of the Daily News spotlighting a name in the news away from the job.

MICHAEL DiBerardinis, deputy mayor and parks and recreation commissioner, with a sharp kitchen knife in hand, is in the throes of his Sunday ritual.

He hovers over the kitchen counter inside his four-bedroom, one-bath Fishtown home, where he’s lived since 1987, chopping onions with the speed, ease and skill of Chef Emeril. His wife of 34 years, Joan Reilly, chief operating officer at the Mural Arts Program, has just finished setting the table for 10 and prepares to drive to Chestnut Hill to pick up her sharp-witted 90-year-old mother.

Hours earlier, DiBerardinis, 62, made his weekly early-morning shopping trip to the Italian Market and now starts to whip up a feast for his family, including his four grown children and 20-month-old grandson, and maybe a couple of friends. Just like he does every Sunday.

On this week’s menu is penne pasta with asparagus, prosciutto, San Marzano tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil; Sicilian meat loaf with veal and pork, Aborio rice and mushroom gravy.

"We feel lucky to have our family close and able to come home together every week. We’re very blessed," DiBerardinis says.

After dinner, DiBerardinis will give each of their children food to take home, then will save the rest for him and Reilly to heat up after their hustle-bustle workdays. Putting in an average of 60 hours a week, DiBerardinis also finds time to bird watch on the Wissahickon, plant geraniums in the back yard and walk to movies at the Ritz with his wife.

One of five children, DiBerardinis grew up in a tiny 2?1/2 bedroom home in Downingtown. His father, who worked at a paper mill, "was tough as nails. My parents were strict, but I never doubted that they loved me."

As a parent. DiBerardinis wasn’t as hard-bitten as his dad, but gave his children clear boundaries.

"You’re not going to make the rules when you’re 12. You’re not going to run the place," he’d tell them.

It worked. Even at ages 32, 30, 28 and 26, his children come home every single Sunday to sit around the dining-room table and eat Dad’s cooking.   

—Barbara Laker Chillin’ Wit’ is a regular feature of the Daily News spotlighting a name in the news away from the job.

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