Tag Archives: italian

You Know You’re Sicilian When…

I’ve seen a lot of these types of lists on the internet lately and haven’t been satisfied with any of them. So I decided to write my own. To be sure, though, I am not a usually fan of the internet listopia phenomenon currently sweeping every site imaginable. I just think it’s interesting that almost every ethnic, social, or cultural group deep down wants a list, that someone else has written, to legitimize their own belonging to that group. But we all have different experiences within each of these sociologically assigned groups, right? So why do we still look for a one-size-fits-all list to validate ourselves?

My mother’s family is all Sicilian and I have grown up in an environment that resembles many characteristics and attitudes of that culture. I tell people that I am ethnically half Sicilian and my nationality is American. I am extremely proud, while also acknowledging that every Italian-American family is different.

This is simply my recollection of what it means to be Sicilian or a true member of the Licata family…

  • You grow your own tomatoes and basil.
  • No one needs a recipe for meatballs and sauce.
  • Every family gathering consists of everyone talking over eachother.
  • You become keen to listening to multiple conversations at once.
  • Your grandmother trusts no one and tries to instill the same fear in you. She’s convinced everyone has secret motives.
  • Every holiday lasts all day and consists of eating and eating and eating.
  • Your grandmother knows every store owned by Italians within a 30 mile radius and you usually buy from them when you’re not cooking homemade, of course.
  • Your grandmother speaks Sicilian, not Italian.
  • As a consequence, your family members pronounce words like “rigotta” and “zazitsa” instead of “ricotta” and “salsiccia”.
  • You have handmade your own zazitsa with your Uncle Joe.
  • There are a lot of people named “Joe” in your family.
  • You have visited distant relatives still living in bel paese.
  • You commiserate with other Italians when Northerners bad mouth Southerners. Yes, Sicily is part of Italy. And no, we are not all mafiosi.
  • Every winter, you actually do roast chestnuts.
  • Pomegranates have been a staple in your family for generations and you get annoyed when some idiota assumes you’ve only started eating them because they are in fashion. No, I’m not a trendy hipster. I’m Sicilian.
  • Artichokes, artichokes, artichokes.
  • Family names include Dominic, Giuseppina, Giuseppe, Rosa Maria, Giovanna, etc.
  • You can still remember your great grandmother telling you what it was like to sail over to America. Two weeks without a shower. Yuck!
  • You talk with your hands. And you couldn’t stop even if you tried.
  • You always want to cook for people and you get offended if they don’t eat the whole pot.
  • You know how to play bocce ball.
  • Finally, and most importantly, the more people you meet, the more you realize your family has something special.

So here’s to every 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation immigrant who still celebrates their heritage with pride!

Dinner with Gionni

“You must first find someone to eat with, rather than something to eat.”

One of the pluses of working in a multicultural office is making friends from around the globe. I am lucky enough to work with and be able to befriend people from more than fifteen different countries. One of my newest colleagues-turned-confidantes is an Italian named Gionni. He’s twenty-nine and has a trinacria tattooed on his right arm. One of the things I love about him is that he cooks. And he loves to cook for other people.

With our shared love of the kitchen, we decided to have dinner nights where we cook for one another and try out new recipes. Last night was one such evening…mozzarella and balsamic vinegar, penne with chicken, Nero d’Avola wine…


It was all around a wonderful evening and got me thinking…why don’t Americans share their dinner table more often?

I know this is common for date night among couples and people in the same generation as my parents, but why not the young, single, able-bodied twenty and thirty somethings? Why do we not invite our friends over and cook for them? Good cooking can be laborious but worthwhile. And the act of creating something for someone else is rewarding in itself. Why not make a meal as a sign of platonic love? Is it our generation’s lack of interest in the culinary arts or the idea of entertaining someone without the guarantee that the gesture will be reciprocated? Or is it more simply, that some of us still cannot afford enough food for a small group of weekly diners?

I don’t know, but if it were possible, this is something I would change. Much like the American personal space bubble, we have retreated to a society that dines alone far too often. We have designated the activity of home cooking strictly for families and romantic occasions. But why?

Dining is an experience. It’s social. It’s an essential part of your day in the limited quantity you have left. Food is to be appreciated as are people.

Why not enjoy them together?