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Nostre Tradizioni

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

piatti-rotti

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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Zio Mario’s Miracle Cure

ginocchio

I have never seen so much blood in my life … which isn’t saying much, considering I am only 7 years old. Regardless, I am horrified as I watch the blood pour out of my kneecap from three different deep scrapes. I sit dumbfounded for a good 10 seconds, silently watching the crimson cascade down my leg before I feel the sting. Once the pain comes, the tears follow. I close my eyes and through increasingly pathetic sobs, I call out for my older cousin — who apparently hasn’t realized I am no longer trailing behind her. “Rosaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnaaaaaaa! Come back! ...

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NOT your stereotypical grandma

Viva i nonni! (Photo by Luigi Mengato.)

There are a variety of Italian grandmother stereotypes in the media these days, and not surprisingly, my own grandma doesn’t fit any of them. Unlike the archetype we see portrayed in TV and movies, she never force fed me pasta while screaming ‘Mangia!’ and as far as I know, she never shuffled around the house in a button-up apron and worn slippers My grandmother embodies sass, self-respect, and independent thinking. She has never been one to suffer fools, tolerate nonsense, or bite her tongue. I’m told she was always like this. She was one of five children, and the only ...

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Paging Dr. Clooney!

clooney-home

I’d only been studying abroad in Bologna for two weeks when I hurt my knee. The director of our program organized a group climb up to the top of the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. While there was a road that led up to the sanctuary, it was also possible to reach it along a 3.5 kilometer roofed portico consisting of 666 arches and maybe a million shallow steps (rough guess). The views from the top were spectacular; the atmosphere was positively peaceful. Little did I know at the time, the portico took more than 100 years to ...

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You Say Bidet. I Say ‘No Way’

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It was the spring of 2003 and I had been living abroad in Bologna for a few months, and in that time had truly embraced the Italian lifestyle. I was eating nutella at almost every meal; I adored lazy Sundays when nothing was open; and I could barter for bootleg dvds at il mercato with the best of them. Moreover, I was rarely surprised by Italian unknown customs anymore. There remained, however, a few facets of Italian life to which I had yet to fully conform. The first of these unaccepted aspects was the tragic and always unfair cappuccino rule. ...

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Dating Italian Men Isn’t Always Easy

dating

My parents set me up with unrealistic expectations of romance. Don’t get me wrong, Vincent and Angela Festino are wonderful genitori. I miei filled my childhood with hugs, Nutella and Totò Cutugno sing-a-longs in the car. My parents’ love for me knows no limits, and their love for each other is truly the stuff Lifetime holiday movies are made of. Their soul-mating began with an unexpected meeting at a bus depot, was almost crushed by a plot twist you never saw coming, and journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean to Italia and back again, before finally reaching its happy ending in ...

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“What is un colpo d’aria?”

colpodaria

We have been driving with seven people cramped in the compact car for over an hour; it is not entirely clear if I will ever walk upright again. When we arrive in the town center of Corato, my mother, sister and I hop — or rather limp — into the back seat of our cousin Franca’s car for the remainder of the ride to Zia Rosa’s house. And lucky me, I get stuck in the middle seat, which only furthers my rapidly developing case of scoliosis. I sit back and the leather scorches my skin. It is August in Puglia ...

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The shameful secret in our basement

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It is a well-known fact that I can be bribed to do almost anything with the promise of my mother’s frittata. Just last week, I rearranged my Saturday to walk my parents’ dog, Rufus, in exchange for a 12-egg fluffy frittata with my name on it. As I sampled my egg earnings, my father mused, “you know, when I was a kid, my mother would send me to school with peppers and eggs for lunch and I would be so embarrassed. And here you are, hoarding this simple omelet as if it were gold.” I wash down the frittata with ...

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An Italian railway adventure

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It is 34 degrees Celsius when my sister Lisa and I board the train in Bologna, and it is even hotter as we come to a sudden stop in the middle of the Italian countryside. “What’s the problem?” asks my sister nonchalantly; she’s not particularly worried. Nor is the middle-aged man with whom we share the train car; he was unaffected by the lurching halt and didn’t miss a beat as he chatted into his cell phone. He’s wearing a wrinkled grey suit and red sneakers — an odd combination for such a hot day. I look out the window ...

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“So … he’s a wizard?”

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As soon as the words leave my mouth, I regret them. Not only because I realize how naïve I sound, but because a part of me is afraid of the answer.

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