Our Team


Cooking Vacations is an American company with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.
Our staff is a professional group of experts who bring you the best of food, wine and travel in Italy. 
Call us at 1.800.916.1152 or email us at info@cooking-vacations.com


Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli

Creator & Owner

Lauren is a writer, photographer, great cook, food lover and artist at heart.  Born into an Italian American family of great chefs, pastry makers and wine producers, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her Neapolitan grandmothers and mom learning how to cook classic Italiano.  After many trips to Italy, and dreaming of living there, she followed her dream and created Cooking Vacations Italy.  She continues to bring new cooking experiences as she travels across Italy, always meeting new chefs, artisan food makers, wine producers and food experts.  She has worked on Todd English’s Food Tripping ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzYTRrYN9Bw ) in Bologna, Italy, hosted the Prince and Princess of Jordan and their family on a Cooking Vacation in Positano, and is an active member Anacapri In Art (http://www.kaireartecapri.it/) on the isle of Capri.

Lauren began her career in the communications as a writer and photographing for The Brown Daily Herald at Brown University. She graduated, moved to Paris and joined the marketing & publicity department at Hasbro Toys, Paris, France launching the American toy line on the European market. She returned to Boston and created Birmingham Public Relations where she was managed media campaigns for the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriot & Bruins sports teams and stars; celebrity Chefs;  Rebook Sports;  the Boston Marathon;  the Wilbur Theatre; restaurants and museums. A published food writer & photographer for Tastes Of Italia Magazine, and foodie at heart, she loves to cook! Traveling, discovering new food recipes & trends is a never-ending adventure for her. Born in the USA, she is an Italian-American who now lives in Boston and Positano, Italy with her Italian husband and former race car driver, Rino Piscitelli.  Rino and Lauren produce their own organic extra virgin first cold pressed olive oil on the sunny Amalfi Coast.

Melody Guerra

Manager ~ Cooking Vacations

Melody, Manager at Cooking Vacations, a lover of food, wine and all things Italian, lives in Positano.  Inspired by languages, Melody studied Spanish, French and Italian and chose to pursue Italian due to her Italian roots: Great Grandfather Enrico Guerra, from near Montefiascone in Lazio and Great Grandmother Rosa Bianco from Catanzaro, Calabria.  Nonno Giuseppe Francesco Guerra served in Italy during World War II and continues to enjoy speaking Italian with Melody.

Melody came to Italy shortly after her graduation from Georgetown University looking to put 3 years of Italian study into practice.  Since living in Italy, Melody has worked in a hotel in Positano, taught English in Salerno and Rome and worked for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino.  Her expertise is Rome, Torino and the Amalfi Coast-where she works in the Cooking Vacations’ Positano office. Melody’s passion lies in revealing true Italy to those who come visit.

Germaine Stafford

Cooking Tour Manager & Food Writer

Germaine Stafford brings us “Italy On A Plate” each month-a culinary round-up of what is  happening in the culinary world and gives you her chef of the month, book recommendation, and seasonal foods.  Germaine is a fulltime freelance writer who has spent the last 14 years of her life in Italy. For the last 5 years she has been the food and cookery correspondent for Italy published in Britain, has won a variety of competitions for both her fiction and non- fiction work, and in 2004 reached the final of the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger award.  When she’s not writing, she’s probably eating and drinking or has her nose stuck in a good book.

Marie Lucia Birmingham


A chef at heart and always in the kitchen, Marie heads up the accounting department keeping all the reservations in order. She loves to cook,-while listening to her Italian classics. She follows in the foot-steps of her mom Philomena and her grandmother Lucia, as a mom and cook. And like her grandmother, she is always with her children and grandchildren. Marie loves it best when she is rolling out dough, making fresh pasta and baking those sweet biscotti with granddaughters Chloe Lucia and Siena Rose.

Ralph Ranalli

Web Writer and Tour Researcher

Ralph traces his love of Italian food and culture to his Neapolitan ancestors, who emigrated to American in the early 1900s. An author and former journalist, Ralph writes the tour descriptions on the Cooking Vacations website from Boston, where he spends as much time as possible in the North End.

An organic gardener who cooks with tomatoes, squash, greens and herbs from his own gardens, Ralph loves creating dishes passed down from his grandmother Rosa, his great-uncle Francesco, and the Italian-American chefs of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, NY, where his father grew up. A passionate Serie A fan, he roots for Napoli but loves Andrea Pirlo (even though he plays for Juve).

Sabrina Ritacco, MSc Food Culture and Communications

Cooking Programs and Social Media Coordinator

Coming to us while pursuing her Masters in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in northern Italy, Sabrina has stayed on the team brings us the latest in food trends, recipes, travel tips, and new programs. Sabrina’s list of food and travel experiences is long and winding lured by her continuous curiosity, appetite, and passion to make people feel as happy as she does to eat really good food.

Her culinary training began early in life in her Italian-Argentinean home, knowing just as easily how to make a homemade tomato sauce as how to properly seal perfect empanadas. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia, frequenting the local farmer’s markets and artisanal food shops when not studying in the library…of course. She’s worked in a farmstay in Emilia-Romagna, as a youth food educator in NY, and in food writing and photography. When she’s not searching new program destinations, testing recipes, or writing for our blog, she’s daydreaming about her next travel destination, planning a menu for a dinner party or photographing her dinner.

Paulo A Lima, MSc Food Culture

Food Trends

Paulo brings food trends to Cooking Vacations each month. He currently is the food trends director for the world’s number one food luxury project called LA Organic, a project headed by the famous French architect and designer Philippe Starck and the world’s most respected enologist Michel Rolland. Lima is an expert in gastronomy trends and marketing with a Master of Sciences in Food Culture and Communication from Universita di Scienze Gastronomiche / Slow Food in Italy, a post graduate degree in e-business and in Consumer Psychology from New York University, and a BSc in Marketing from Rio de Janeiro’s Universidade Cidade; Paulo travels all over the world locating exciting new products, a mission that allows him to combine his passion for discovering authentic terroir-specific foods with his desire to bring them to a select group of food lovers. Paulo is a master of-analysis of markets that identify and forecast lifestyle and food trends. Prior LA Organic, Paulo was the gastronomy trends director for Italy’s Appennino Truffle Group, the world’s second largest truffle trading firm based in Bologna. Prior he was marketing manager at Italian Cooking and Living Media Group – La Cucina Italiana Magazine in New York.

Terenzio Biscardo

Wine Sommelier

Terenzio Biscardo is our Italian wine producer and expert from
his Villa Ortaglia in Montepulciano. He and his son Nicola, who are members of the National Organization of Wine Tasters of the Italian Association of Sommeliers and of the Society of Wine Educators, produce the great Montepulciano wines from Tuscany. Terenzio’s knowledge and award winning wines makes him a leader in the field. Each month he shares his knowledge and information with you on the great wines of Italy.

Todd English

Executive Chef & Restauranteur

Contribuiting his award-winning recipes each month, Todd English one of the most decorated, respected and charismatic chefs in the world, Has enjoyed a staggering number of accolades during his remarkable career. He has been recognized by several of the food industrys’ most prestigious publications, established one of the best-known restaurant brands in the nation, published theree critically acclaimed cookbooks, and was named People’s Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People. Each month Todd brings us his amazing recipes!