Jo Champa is the mother of my son’s best friend. My son loves eating at her house so I figured I’d better find out what she’s feeding him. Apparently her pizza is to die for and so are her meatballs.
On this day she shared her meatball recipe! Lucky you she’s sharing it with you too.
To say Jo is a life force is an understatement. Born in the United States, she grew up in Rome becoming a model, actress, journalist, producer, socialite and someone Italian Vogue calls an “icon” and style ambassador for Italy. Case in point, on the day of our interview I showed up wearing jeans, Jo was in a black Alaia dress ready to cook. Totally normal and totally Jo. And that’s why I love her! Below a bit more with Jo and of course her meatball recipe after that!
Tell me about how you got your start in movies?
I started modeling at 15 (back then it was legal!), so by about 19 I was on the cover of a fashion magazine called “Amica” and…a casting director called my modeling agent. And because I didn’t care if I got the job or not… I got it! That’s what happens when you give your best without stressing!
You were born in this country but grew up in Italy…where do you consider home?
Home is wherever my son , Sean, and I are. But I love living in the US, as much as I love Italy which represents, for me, family, as all my family is there.
Growing up, did you like to cook? And what about your mom, did she cook? What did she make that you loved?
I loved cooking and helping out in the kitchen. It was fun especially since we had no computers back then! I also got to taste everything first which was fun!
My mom was a great cook but she did different things that I wish now I knew how to do as well but back then I learned with these old Italian “nannies/housekeepers” that we had , from southern Italy. They were fun to me, always talking and singing in the kitchen! I am also lucky to know Sophia Loren and her sister Maria who have given me great pointers!
If you could have a dinner party with any five people, living or dead, who would you have over and what would you serve?
Well, I want my son there and then I’d like Jesus, Albert Einstein, Daniel Pearl, Stephen Hawkings, I’d have a lot of questions and see how we, as humans , could have done or could do things differently.
Where are your favorite restaurants to eat at here in Los Angeles and Italy?
In Los Angeles I go to all the Drago restaurants, Giorgio Baldi and E. Baldi and I love Gino Angelini, although it’s a bit far, so I end up at Vincenti which has exquisite Italian food.
In Rome I have so many yummy places that are off the beaten path , like Augustarello in Trastevere- they only have 2 choices which change every day and are only open at lunch.
Orso ‘80 in Via dell’Orso.
Da Nino in Via Borgognona
Dal Bolognese in Piazza del Popolo…
You are described as a Model, actress, journalist, producer, socialite, tell me about how you see yourself.
I liked to be described as a humanist and mom at this point of my life. Sure, I act, produce, help raise money for great causes but after my husband passed away I’ve prioritized and tried to make my world a bit smaller… although Italian Vogue describes me as an “icon” and a style ambassador for Italy… I’m just being me.
How do you practice beauty from the inside out?
I eat balanced, although I have a tremendous sweet tooth! I take vitamins but no one can take away my morning coffee, the good thing is I have never smoked, don’t drink much at all( odd coming from a country that is known for its wine production!) and lead a healthy life.
I read a lot, pray, write and contemplate every day and I think positivity in thoughts are important. As we age our soul and mind shows on our face!
Can you tell us one thing you used to be insecure about and how you drew confidence and moved past it?
I used to be insecure about everything! From my height( I was too tall in Italy when I was a kid) to my big lips ( my brothers would tell me to “shut the oven”!) and eyebrows… and I always thought I was fat.l even when my cousins would call me “stick legs”! I think it came in time and my mom sent me to a modeling school in Rome that still exists called KOEFIA, it was very helpful, then when I started modeling I knew I wasn’t the most beautiful but I knew I had a beauty you couldn’t nail down- something that came from inside, that people felt.
What advice would you give young girls, struggling to be self confident?
To keep reading because it starts with your mind and in your heart. It’s easy to say “believe in yourself”, it’s harder to walk the walk. To find guidance whether with your parents or getting involved with a group, for example my girlfriend Jennifer Schwab Wangers created Entity magazine for the millennials and does summer courses to help motivate, inspire and grow. Walk away from bullying, negative criticism and go where the Love is. It’s so important. Find friends that share your interests or enthusiasm for life and have passion about what they’re doing!
Know that we are all on this journey together called life and we are all growing. No one knows it all. You can look up to people but never kneel to them.
If you could think of a quote of the day to sum up your mood and mode, what would it be?
Well, since my son just brought me breakfast in bed , I’d say “Good morning, Sunshine!” Or in Italian what comes to mind is “Buongiorno, Principessa”! Because we can all be Sunshine’s and Princesses. It’s in our heart and mind!!!
Could you take us through your morning and nightly beauty routines?
In the morning I wash my face lightly as I have no makeup on and I want the natural oils of my skin to do their job .. I usually then put on something light like a serum and then sunblock. Always sunblock!
At night I use makeup remover , wash and scrub, then put a mix of serums and heavy moisturizer as my skin has gotten more dry in time. Also, I use eye cream.
My mom taught me to always take my makeup off and I think it’s the most important thing to do!
The three beauty products you can’t live without…
Ohh!!! I mix them around but I am
Loving right now Tata Harpers eye and lip balm, you have to rub it and then put on. Chanel’s Sublimage cream and Recherche Biologique toner, which is the equivalent to a scrub!
Describe your fashion style for me.
Style is innate. Money can’t but you Style. Mine has paired down in the years, I experiment less and keep it down to daytime, jeans and a tank or pretty blouse , a bit tomboyish to more sexy at night. I’m loving Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen right now but have many Alaia dresses and especially my italian girlfriend and designer Alberta Ferretti.
What are the five closet staples you have that you couldn’t live without?
jeans, boots, a good jacket, a dress,1 pair high heels!
What’s the best advice in your career you’ve received? The worst?
Best- my mom told “there are no stupid questions” and then “fuck the critics”.
Well, it’s hard to do the last…because being judged hurts!!!
Worst advice… let’s just say #metoo but I just … walked away and changed agency!
What’s the most valuable life lesson you’ve learned that you hope to pass on to your son?
To have emotional integrity. To stand up for what he believes in and to remember that he represents me on this Earth, to please do it well!
Jo’s Meatballs:Print Recipe
1/2 pound ground organic beef
2 turkey ( mild!) sausages
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup panko or breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, minced or grated (1/2 a large onion)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped basil
1 teaspoon chopped Thyme
Form into 1 ½ inch small balls (about the size of a golf ball) and bake on a greased cookie sheet bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. (Jo never frys them)
Jo’s Tomato SaucePrint Recipe
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 pounds chopped tomato (or you can use canned puree)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot, heat the extra-virgin olive oil and cook the onions until translucent. Add the tomato puree and bring to a boil. Add the salt, and pepper, to taste and lower the heat to medium. Add the meatballs to the pot and let them finish cooking.
Top with fresh grated Cheese and enjoy!