SANTA MONICA, Calif. — In the wake of a recent uptick in antisemitism across our country, Spectrum News 1 is highlighting a local woman who has a very different story about Jewish identity.

Benedetta Guetta was born and raised in Milan, Italy, to a Jewish family with roots to the city dating back thousands of years. Guetta says that in the U.S., we tend to only look at Jewish identity through an Ashkenazi lens — meaning, the Jewish community that hails from Eastern Europe.

But Guetta stresses that there are many more Jewish communities from around the Mediterranean and the Middle East. So she wrote a cookbook called "Cooking Alla Giudia," which documents the little-known history of the Jewish community in Italy.

“There is great lack of awareness about the different Jewish communities that exist around the world for centuries,” Guetta said. “Jews of Mediterranean countries and Jews of the Arab world, that’s a whole chapter of Jewish history that I think really needs to be told.” 

Just over a year ago, Guetta opened Café Lovi in Santa Monica, where her menu highlights recipes from her book, like eggplant caponata.

“The fascinating story about this dish in particular is that Italians didn’t know how to cook eggplants for centuries. They actually thought it was a vegetable that only the Jews and the dogs ate. And now when you think about eggplants and how many Italian dishes feature it as an ingredient, it’s pretty shocking. We wouldn’t have eggplant parmigiana, we wouldn’t have pasta alla norma, if the Jews didn’t teach the Italians how to cook with eggplants.” 

Guetta says there are other dishes and ingredients in Italian cuisine that hint at Jewish origins, like artichokes and the pasta shape called orecchiette. 

The Jewish community of Italy is small — but more ancient than most realize.

“The Jews of Italy are not your usual Jewish community in that we are not Sephardi, so we don’t come from Spain," Guetta said. "We are not Askenazi, so we’re not from Eastern Europe. The Jews of Italy came straight from the motherland, from Israel, back in the times of the Judean Wars.”

Guetta says the Jewish community from Italy is roughly 35,000 people. To put that in context, that’s roughly the population of West Hollywood, according to