About Mamaliga

Mamaliga was born in fall of 2000 as a little band was formed in the North-west suburbs of Chicago. At the time only a violin (Elizabeth Lindau) and an acoustic guitar (Gabi Bucataru), Mamaliga was an eclectic acoustic duet with its own sort of personality. We played at mainly bagel-shops, coffee houses, and even pulled of an Old Town School of Folk Music open mic in Chicago!

Gabi Hi, I am Gabriel (Gabi) Bucataru. Since then Mamaliga mysteriously morphed into one of my old passions: cooking. In fact my family name “Bucataru” it means “cook” in Romanian. I might be getting in touch with my destiny, and finally I might be more convinced of what I want to be when I grow up.

I was born in, in a town called Timisoara, in the western region of Romania. Grew up there for 28 years until I met the women of my life, Stephanie, adopted two kids (at the time in 1997, Dani was 9, and Ellie was 3). Lived there for another 3 years until we moved in the Northwest-Suburbs of Chicago where Stephanie is from. After living in a small apartment in Romania and with not a stable job (I used to be a wine salesman on a bike and made USD 3.50/month – it was a joke so I quit the first month).

It was much easier to raise our kids here given the fact that Stephanie’s parents were here, and that here extended family was way larger than mine (I only have my Dad back in Timisoara. So, I started working in computer programming at Stephanie’s Dad, thing that proved excellent for a fresh immigrant like me that just landed in the USA in February 2000. That’s where I got the geek bug.

But I also had another bug: Guitars. I played in a band called De Acum Incolo in Romania, we made an album and played a couple concerts. I somehow ended up with a Gibson Les Paul (1993), and realizing that I need and amp to play it (DOH!), I built one. That’s how Gabriel Sound Garage was born, a small high end guitar amplifier company that I still own, and operate as a one-man-show from a corner of our basement.

In 2006 we took a 10 day trip with Stephanie’s parents and our kids (Dani and Ellie) to Italy (where Stephanie’s Mom is originally from) partly because there is a strong Italian culture connection running in their family, and I always wanted to visit, and partly because Dani, our son was going to take off for the Air Force that fall. She was born in Turin from American parents and later moved to the US. We flew into Zurich (Switzerland), rented a car and drove through Northern Italy, Merano, then into Venice, then Cinque Terre on the West coast, from there spent 7 beautiful days in Casa Cares, a vacation house in a picture-perfect Tuscan region.

That’s where something short-circuited in my brain and caused an appreciation and interest for authentic cultural food and cooking. It took a good old time after numerous reminders from my wife that good food is not necessarily complicated – to came to the conclusion that indeed a simple pasta and tomato sauce can be so intricate and full of character if done with real passion! It is something I am still battling.

The next year (2007) a big turn happened. We were signed up as foster parents, (since Dani was off to the Air Force and there was a vacant room in the house), but didn’t have much hopes to actually have any children assigned to us. In February 2007, we received a call from the organization we were with asking us if we would want to take two African American sisters in foster care – Marsha (Corrie) was 10 days and her sister Kea was 17 months old at the time. We said “YES!” and our life changed forever.

Graduating from size 1 diapers all the way up to size 3 (and potty training for Kea), we became full time parents once again with two bubbly energetic girls running around CONSTANTLY and a teenager (Ellie) that always asks us questions about life we can’t find answers for.

In this new roller coaster ride we got in and enjoying it immensely, I decided that the limited time I have I should set apart for this Mamaliga blog that will be dedicated to my journey in the culinary arts, failures and success all in the same pot. Hope you will enjoy my ranting and find something useful!


Gabriel Bucataru


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