“Course One: Escarole Soup. Course Two: Manicotti and Salad. Gina, what is this – Sunday dinner or a reception for the Pope?” 

My girlfriend Gina showed me a copy of the menu her mother had planned for dinner. It was a seven course feast! “Do you eat like this every Sunday?” 

“No, silly – only when we have company. This week it’s my dad’s side of the family. There’s a lot a people and mom always says it’s better to have too much food than not enough.” 

“Wait a second. There’s going to be other people besides your parents? Like how many?”

Gina started counting on her fingers.  “About 18, maybe 20.” 

“The first time I meet your parents I’m also going to meet 20 strangers and you didn’t think to warn me??” 

“Oh, don’t worry. They’re gonna love you.” 

“No. They’ll be employing Sicilian interrogations tactics. They’ll chew me up and spit me out. I’m Irish with blonde hair and pale skin. I don’t stand a chance!” 

Gina laughed. “Oh stop exaggerating. We’re not The Mob, ya know. Just mob!” 

And she was right. I couldn’t believe the number of people that descended on her house. They were loud, funny, loving and very welcoming.

Gina’s mom set the table extravagantly, using her best dishes, utensils and glasses. And the food was incredible. Besides the soup, pasta and salad there was fresh baked bread, an antipasto, a huge platter of meatballs and sausages, two roasts, a bunch of vegetables, fennel, fruit, nuts, a slew of desserts I couldn’t pronounce and coffee. Gina’s uncles and male cousins ate like there was no tomorrow and no one stopped talking the entire time – except for Gina’s grandmother who didn’t utter a sound and stared at me with beady eyes the whole day. Honestly, that tiny woman dressed in black from head to toe scared me to death. 

As the woman cleared away all traces of dinner, Gina’s dad got up, went to the cupboard and returned with a beautiful box made of highly polished wood with the finest Italian marble inlay. Placing the box on the table, he opened it to reveal an assortment of expensive imported cigars. The men lit up and a bottle of anisette appeared out of nowhere.

Gina’s Uncle Vito produced a deck of cards from his vest pocket. “Ya know how to play Red Dog, Phil?” he asked me.

Um … it’s Bill, sir. And no, I’m not familiar with the game.” 

“Hey, no problem, Irish. We’re gonna teach ya. And don’t look so nervous. We may rob ya but we ain’t gonna kill ya. For some reason our Gina likes ya and if she likes ya, we all likes ya.” 

While we played cards, Gina’s cousins Louie and Frankie played their accordions and the women danced; it was the most surreal and unforgettable experience of my life. 

I watched as Gina’s grandmother rose from her chair. Slowly she walked over to me and looked me square in the eyes. She grinned and pinched my cheek till it was beet red. And la famiglia howled.

I swear – 53 years later her stamp of approval is still on my face. 

NAR © 2023
Originally posted in 2019

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41 thoughts on “LA FAMIGLIA”

    1. Thanks so much, Keith! Those were really great times. The family is smaller now but we still try to keep the traditions going. I love Montalbano! My cousin in Sicily turned me on to him. I’m sure you’ll get there one day!


    1. Thanks so much, Grace! I love your question. Well, the family has gotten a lot smaller; my sister and I and a couple of cousins are the last hold-outs. We cook more reasonably these days but on holidays we still prepare homemade pasta, fresh baked bread and one roast with all the fixings. Our 3-year-old granddaughter had her first lesson in making pasta this Easter; her Italian pronunciation of “manicotti” is excellent! 😂

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Perfect story match with your post at The Rhythm Section, cara.

    Oh, man…poor B…he walked in the set of Godfather and he didn’t even know it😆
    Salúte , la Famiglia!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tanti, tanti grazi, caru amicu! You got the connection!! Bravo to you. I was wondering if anyone would get that little nod to The Godfather. Tanti auguri!

      Yeah, Bill was a bit rattled at first by the sheer magnitude of my family but they all loved him; they teased him terribly but he took it all in stride. Actually, I think it was my mom’s homemade pasta that clinched the deal! 😂

      PS: My opening words are in Sicilian. Just a bit different than pure Italian.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t laugh. Whenever the family got together, the men would always take an afternoon nap after playing cards and wake up starving! That’s when we’d make sandwiches with the leftover roasts. I’m sure my mother whipped up something to go with the sandwiches and there were probably left over desserts, too. We ate well!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My family was not Italian. Farm people for the most part, they enjoyed holiday meals and gatherings such as you described. As the years progressed, such gatherings died off with their participants. Their children do not share the same joy of gathering together with family. Their lives are poorer for it, but they do not know it.


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