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The Italian Meal

If one of your Italian friends invites you over for Sunday dinner, you best block off a half a day. Italians like to take things slowly, especially things so important as eating. In the United States where we try to optimize every transaction to save time, restaurants are often very concerned with turning over tables. The faster they seat you, serve you, and give you the bill, the more money they make. With Italians, hospitality comes first, and it would be unthinkable to rush through a meal. And if you do, don’t expect an invitation back.

A typical Italian menu is divided into antipasti (appetizers), primi (pasta first courses), and secondi (meat second courses), with contorni (sides) and dolci (desserts) at the end. Don’t forget the wine, and lots of it. The antipasti in my home is just some nibbles. Perhaps a bit of cheese, fruit, and salami or Proscuitto, just enough for everyone to have a little something while we pour a glass of wine and catch up. Please don’t serve a full on charcuterie board before dinner, because your guests will not EAT the dinner you worked all day on. I don’t serve my pasta first, it comes with the meal or is the meal. Desserts are a few cookies and biscotti served with a little digestivo. Digestivo is an alcoholic drink, served after the meal to aid in digestion. The glasses are very small and you sip on it.

I want everyone to be at the table together, no one is on their cellphones, unless they want to snap a photo of the family and the meal. I am fortunate that my family respects that.

This is the time where you connect with one another, so please don’t rush. In this day and age with DVR, if your favorite show is coming on, then record it.

Nothing brings me more joy then we are all at the table together. People are busy, I know, so once a month is something I can live with.

My Grammy Filomena, turned her master bedroom into her dining room because it was the biggest room in her house. The table sat about 20 people.

There's a saying in Italy: “a tavola non s'invecchia” —at the table one does not grow old. The longer one can spend at the table, the better.

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