She was born Violet Bozzi in 1917. In 1940, she became Violet Notto when she married another South Philadelphia kid, Sam Notto.

But to her family - five children, now 54 to 70; plus 11 grandchildren; 12 great grandchildren and enough other relatives to fill several dinner tables at the Nottos' longtime Brigantine home - she'll always have another name.

She was "La Regina de la Cucina" - Italian for "The Queen of the Kitchen."

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Her daughters said Violet earned that title early, and really never stopped earning it, almost until she died last month at 96.

Arlene Harper, of Norristown, Pa., said her mom was 95 last year when she made Christmas dinner for 35 or 40 people - all homemade, from scratch.

"She made all the gravy, the sausage, the manicotti," and more, Harper said. "She'd say, 'I have time. You're all working.'"

Sam spotted Violet as kitchen royalty shortly after they met, working for the same Philadelphia plumbing company. Violet kept the books, Sam was a plumber, and their youngest daughter, Deborah Jean Carchidi, of Glassboro, said that one day, Sam got to work with no lunch.

"My mother ran home, made him lunch, then ran back with a sandwich for him," Carchidi said. "That day ... he swore to the other guys, 'I'm going to marry that girl -‚ÄČnobody can make a sandwich as good as that!'"

That sandwich sprouted a relationship that lasted until Sam died in 2010, at 92.

Their Brigantine neighbors, Joe and Pat Kasper, said Sam - who built the Brigantine house in 1950 - was still a busy guy when the Kaspers got there in 2001. So the new people were shocked when they learned the Nottos' real ages.

"Especially (Sam), because he was so vital," said Joe Kasper, 77. "They were active people, very involved in the community, and very welcoming and helpful."

But the Kaspers have eaten Violet's cooking, and they agree she lived up to her royal title.

"They were always inviting us. And we'd always say, 'Violet, you put out too much food.' ... But there was no such thing as too much for Violet," Kasper said.

That was nothing new for the kitchen queen. Carchidi's college classmate recalled being invited to the Notto home and treated like family - even when the friend later brought her own growing family.

"Their table seemed to magically expand to accommodate whoever showed up, and the food kept coming," said Bonnie Northrop Nesbitt, now of Arlington, Va. "Mrs. Notto didn't know 'no' when it came to filling up the stomachs of visitors."

Sam and Violet moved to Brigantine when Sam retired in 1980, which just gave Violet a new kitchen to rule.

'That woman could cook," said Carchidi. "And she loved it."

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