Sicilian Tuna Salad

Just A Greasy Brown Bag

I always wanted one of those themed lunch boxes I saw my classmates have while in elementary school. Some were adorned with The Lone Ranger, Superman, Yogi Bear. They would open them up on the lunch room table and take out their neatly packaged sandwiches wrapped in wax paper or foil. The thermos fit right next to the package of Ring Dings or pieces of fruit their mother’s packed.

And their sandwiches were so simple and neat. Two slices of “American”  bread, as we used to call it, some with the crust cut off, holding a couple of slices of luncheon meat or peanut butter and jelly.

When I arrived at the lunch room table my friends were always eager to see what gargantuan  mass of a sandwich my mother packed in my oil stained brown paper bag.  I would pull out what looked like a half loaf of Italian bread wrapped in foil. As I unwrapped the super sub it was usually overloaded with last nights leftovers. Meatballs and tomato sauce, sausage and peppers, peppers and eggs, eggplant or veal Parmigiano, you know, the usual stuff us Italian kids ate for lunch. And when I took a bite into my massive sandwich the filling would land with a plop on the foil underneath. As I was eating I would glance over to my friend sitting next to me and he had his sandwich in one hand while poking his buddy with the other, just to annoy him. I needed both my hands to eat my sandwich, and usually a roll of paper towels to clean up afterwards.

One time while shopping with my mother I had asked her to buy me spiced ham for lunch because I saw my friend Junior eating that the other day. My mother ignored me and went on ordering a pound of salami and mortadella. If I did get a cold cut sandwich it was usually loaded with Italian cold cuts and adorned with marinated eggplant or olive salad or roasted peppers. Hence the oil stain. I’m not complaining, mind you, I just was like every other kid and wanted something I couldn’t have.

But, what goes around comes around. When my son Joseph was around 6 years old and we were food shopping he asked me to buy a can of Chef Boyardee Spaghettios. I ignored him.

This is a dish I remember my Grandfather actually making himself. He used to have it for lunch on a fresh Italian Roll. My mom packed this for my lunch plenty of times.


  • 1 can  Albacore tuna packed in olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8  lemon peel
  • 1/8 inch slice of red onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh ground black pepper

Drain the tuna and flake in a bowl.

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on the tuna. Cut off about 1/8 of the lemon peel and slice the peel into thin strips, then cut the strips crosswise into tiny bits.  Add the peel to the tuna. (You don’t just want lemon zest, you want the entire peel)  Add  chopped onion. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add pepper. Mix well.

This is a nice change from tuna and mayo. The little bits of lemon peel add a burst of lemony flavor to the sandwich.


About Peter Bocchieri

Peter was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and is a second generation Italian-American. He has a degree in Journalism from Long Island University and is an avid photographer, gardener and pet owner. Now that Peter is retired, he is relaxing at his home in North East Pennsylvania and cooking for his sons, Michael and Joseph, family and friends. Peter's passion for food was inspired by his Mother's and Grandmother's cooking, but at the age of 10 Peter felt he could do it better himself, so he did.
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5 Responses to Sicilian Tuna Salad

  1. Susan Reinhart says:

    This story of you in the lunch room is too funny and reminds me of the stories my father tells about my grandmother’s Hungarian cooking! Great job on these blogs…keep the stories and the recipes coming!

  2. My mother-in-law made tuna this way. Brings back memories of Saturday lunches we often shared. Love the Spaghettios story!

  3. Jenn Miller says:

    This tuna recipe looks delicious, will have to try it. Looking through your blog, loved the “Rocky” story! Going to look for a recipe without pasta, no seafood, no steak…having a small dinner party with 1 pregnant woman who can’t eat seafood and me who doesn’t like steak…oh, and I don’t want alot of prep time, haha!

    • Peter Bocchieri says:

      Thanks Jen. I’ll be posting a really good recipe for Grilled Marinated Chicken that’s easy. Keep an eye out.

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