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Mi scappa la pipì, Pina

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My love affair with Nutella was one for the ages. I don’t recall when we first met, I only know that we were always drawn to one another. It wasn’t until I was studying abroad in Bologna, though, that we took our relationship to the next level. I’m not sure if my senses were just heightened or if the Nutella in Italy simply tasted better, but either way, our love grew stronger with each passing day. The chocolate and hazelnut combination somehow seemed richer and deeper as I spread it on cookies in my little studentato. I could find a ...

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Keep calm and rock salt on

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I ate a lot of rock salt as a child. I know, right? It sounds gross and wrong and downright dangerous. You are wondering: why and how? You may not believe me, but I promise I’m telling the truth and I’m going to answer your questions. Well … some of them. A lot of people blame “falling on their head as a child” as the reason they are weird or foolish. I blame the rock salt and constantly offer it up as an explanation for my shortcomings. You can’t wink? Why can’t you wink? Well, I ate a lot of ...

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Carnevale with the Vaudo Clan

700 Ravioli homemade to be cooked "Al Dente" for 65 family members along with 100 home made sausages 100  meatballs with 9 quarts marina sauce, plus all types of desserts salad and vino.
Grandma Vaudo is 100 years old with her daughter Jo DeVelis.

“Ravioli, meatballs and sausage, holy smoke. Carnevale, scunzalata and Grampa’s donkey joke. Oh, we eat a lot and we laugh a lot and do everything that we can, A credit to old Carnevale is Grampa Vaudo’s clan. The above refrain is recited every year as part the pre-Lenten celebratory meal of the multi-generational Vaudo clan. The tradition began over 100 years ago in Gaeta, Italy, and continues to this day, hosted by Tom and Rita Damigella. This celebration, which I just learned about, is interesting to me, not least of all because over a year ago, in my second story ...

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My journey toward “la bella figura”

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“Where do you think you’re going dressed like that?” my father demanded, his voice dripping with disapproval. He was seated at the kitchen table, reading the Sunday Globe. I glanced down at my Wellesley t-shirt, worn sweat pants, and beat up Chuck Taylor sneakers. I ran my hand through my disheveled hair and answered back with the attitude of the 18-year-old-know-it-all that I was, “Ah, I’m going to the supermarket … is there a problem?” He sighed, took a deep breath, and thought for a moment … as if he wasn’t quite sure how to turn his thoughts into words ...

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The True (North End) Story of Paul Revere

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Paul Revere was born in the North End on Jan. 1, 1735. His father was a French Huguenot born Apollos Rivoire. Apollos married Deborah Hitchborn of a well-known Boston family. He later changed his name to the Anglicized “Paul Revere,” which was the name given to his son, the third of 12 children. Paul Revere Jr. has a long and interesting history, though his current notoriety centers on his famous ride of April 18, 1775. Many of you may already know that the actual ride of Paul Revere was different from its portrayal in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s ...

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Any one up for a quick game of “Cans”?

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When I was a boy, one of my favorite games was called “cans.” We played a lot in the summer. All that was needed was a can for each player and a wall. Everybody who played had to have their own unique soda can — Coke, Pepsi, Ginger Ale, Orange, etc. There could be no duplicates because everyone needed to be able to identify their own can at all times. (And remember, back in those pre-aluminum days, the cans were a lot heavier and sturdier than they are now. They were heavy enough to toss a good distance, which was ...

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And the horse he road in on

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“I’m wondering if you ever sell horse meat?” The butcher looked at me for a moment, and I could have sworn I saw his moustache twitch.

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Italian immigrants and violent crime

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On Sunday, Aug. 4, 1901, the Boston Globe invited five prominent Italians and Italian Americans to respond to the question: "Is the Italian More Prone to Violent Crime than Any Other Race?"

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A very Italian tour of the North End

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On Oct. 26, I had the honor and pleasure of leading a group of about 40 Italians and other Europeans on a tour of the North End. Most had visited the North End before, but they knew little about its past, either as a historical section of Boston or as an Italian-American neighborhood. I lead the tour at the request of Andrea Ponzone, who I had meet about a year earlier at an event sponsored by the Braintree Italian American Cultural Organization. Andrea is a judge advocate for the Archdiocese of Boston. He is from Torino, Italy, and has been ...

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In with the new – An Italian American New Year’s

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Okay, so maybe this wasn’t my best idea. And by that, I mean it was probably one of my worst ideas ever. Right up there with the time I thought it would be fun to perform a sing-a-long of Andrea Bocelli’s greatest hits for Kelly. I thought my accompaniment of “Romanza” was brilliant, chilling I daresay. It wasn’t until years later that Kelly admitted she was holding back both horror and humor as a tone-deaf, 14-year-old Danielle bowed for applause. But I digress… In any case, it was too late. My friends were at Casa Festino and we would just ...

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My Christmas Commuter Caper

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It was a perfectly lovely evening to get bus-jacked, I suppose. Since it was the day before Christmas Eve, I was in a particularly joyful and triumphant mood. The “Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack played softly on my iPod. It was snowing lightly and there was the perfect amount of crisp winter chill in the air. Unfortunately, there was a bit of chill on the bus as well. The heat didn’t seem to be working, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if the ride home had taken only its usual 30 minutes. However, the bus was crawling at a snail’s ...

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Christmases past, fondly remembered

Seven Fishes! (photo courtesy Austin Kleon)

Growing up in the North End, I never felt a conflict between the religious and popular traditions of Christmas. We knew we were celebrating the birth of Jesus, and we never forgot that. The midnight Mass was the central event of Christmas Eve, and putting cookies out for Santa Claus could never take away from that event. He was, after all, a saint. And the model of the manger with the baby Jesus looked even warmer and lovelier nested as it was among the many other Christmas decorations and lights. It was smaller than the tree, but it was no ...

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