SOL: Sunday Italian Dinners

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My recent trip back to NYC gave me a urge to watch the Sopranos again. Now that we are actually re-watching them, I honestly don’t think that I have ever seen most of them, as I do not remember a single thing that happened! The craziest part is in the opening song, seeing the twin towers. Ah – the nostalgia it gives me to watch this show – just reminds me of New York and New Jersey and my home and some past memories – you just don’t get Italians like that over here on the west coast, especially inland northwest.

A memory that this reminds me of is I used to date a cop who lived in the Bronx with his parents. He was the baby of the family and always, always, always went to Sunday dinner at their apartment. Ironically, they lived in the extremely Irish neighborhood in the Bronx, but they blasted Italian music out the windows, all the time, because it was always so hot in their apartment and I believe they were both going deaf -they were relatively old. The mother didn’t like me and would not speak to me in English – only Italian – knowing that I was not 100% Italian and not approving of her son’s choice. The father was the nicest guy in the world – but a good amount of the time I had no idea what he was saying – he was heavy with the accent.

Almost every Sunday, he would go to dinner there, and would invite me as I hated to decline but really did not want to go. They made the same thing every single week: pasta, lamb, wine, salad. In that order. And if you weren’t hungry? Well then you better make some room in that stomach because you had to eat. It was always so interesting to me, I had never understood the salad last – it was so different. They explained to me that it was to open up the pallets and let the stomach breathe – getting ready for any dessert or coffee. At this time, I was not a big huge eater, and I really didn’t like eating pasta. But I had no choice, and I really wanted the Italian mama to like me , so I had to do it.

Another funny thing I remember was the father would always make sangria, but he made it with orange soda and red wine. The weirdest, most delicious way to make super simple sangria. For a long time after we stopped dating, I continued to drink this, and as a bartender I had pushed this on many people who hated Sangria.

As reminiscing and continuing to watch the Sopranos, thinking about my past relationships, I feel the need to document some of the memorable times. This was one of those times. I realized during these dinners, that this mother needed to let her child go!! He was like 25 at that time, and I mean seriously, treated him like a 10 year old. It was the oddest thing in the world.

The best part of this memory was one day, after about 5-6 months of only being spoken to in Italian, the mother must have finally realized I wasn’t going away anytime soon, she finally spoke to me in English but would never call me by my name.

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19 thoughts on “SOL: Sunday Italian Dinners

  1. I grew up with friends who were from a very Italian-American background, who used to invite “small family” me to dinners now and then and wow … it was pretty amazing … not just the food, but the energy and the dynamics of the gatherings ….
    Kevin

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  2. I read your post and it makes me wonder what kind of mother in law I’m going to be when my boys marry. I’m sure I won’t be like this lady and I hope you’re counting yourself lucky not to have married into that family. 🙂 A mother in law like that would’ve been criticizing everything you did. Dodged a bullet on that one! 🙂

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  3. As a family, we rewatched The Sopranos last winter because my daughter had never seen it. We laughed together all winter through their antics, both funny and at times terrifying. I know that stereotypes can be harmful, but this stereotypical Italian mob family hit a home run. So many people, nonItalians included, loved this series. Your story of your own experiences with a similar familiar ring very true. I grew up in a small Italian-mostly community on the north shore of LI, so I am familiar with the details. My own mother, German-Lutheran, treated my Jewish boyfriend the same way when he came to visit. She even made him sit and say “grace” with us at the table. Ethnic discomfort is still alive and well! Thanks for the memories.

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  4. I also had a friend whose mother was Italian. Yes, when you went to visit you ate, and ate, and ate. Even if you were full the food kept coming. It was no half hour meal either.

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  5. Wonderful slice of memory. I relate… growing up on the east coast and now living on the west coast. You stirred memories of times in the homes of my Italian friends. How we worried their mothers when our generation crossed family culture lines!

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