Growing Up In An Italian-American Family



It is truly a treasure to grow up with a loving and complete family. There is no other bond in the world that can surpass this kind of belongingness. And to grow up in an Italian-American family was something to be envied upon by even the Irish, Germans or Polish.

If you have Italian blood in your veins, or if you are simply curious about what it was like to be born into an Italian-American family, below are some reminiscent childhood reminders of how it was like to grow up with a tight-knitted family.

Copious upon copious blessings of fresh Italian food

Whether it’s Christmas, New Year’s or any other type of holiday, (even non-holidays) special days are truly special in an Italian home. When you’re Italian, the breakfasts, lunches and dinners are like no other. No, it’s not just turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Whether it’s antipasto, risotto bruschetta, struffoli, ravioli to meatballs, everything is homemade and deliciously cooked with unconditional love. Then comes dessert of course with a few more variations of pastries, fruits, cakes and other baked goods including dipping peach wedges in red wine! They say it’s an almost impossible feat to go on a diet when you’re Italian.

Blood is always thicker than water

If you ever happen to befriend an Italian, don’t be surprised when you’re invited to a humongous party and you are introduced to three Marias, four Christinas and two or three Uncle Tonys. Furthermore, if you’re Italian, it’s always a small world. Your relative knows a friend whose brother is best mates with a first degree cousin.

Don’t even be baffled when their boisterous cheers and laughter (with accompanying gesticulations we’re well-known for) reach to the furthest house in the neighborhood. In fact, don’t even be in awe to hear a couple of different Italian dialects that even the Italian grandchildren can’t understand. It’s insane, but that’s Italian for you!

Sunday is family day, tradition is tradition

If you’re non-Italian, weekends are a time to hang out with friends, go to the mall, watch a movie, and maybe spend a little time with mom and dad. But if you have an Italian lineage, Sunday is serious business – serious family business. As soon as you wake up, you will smell the aroma of onions, garlic and tomatoes fried in olive oil, ingredients ready-made for a sumptuous lunch. While breakfast is considered a sweet meal for Italians, with cereals and fruits, lunch time is savory.

And what comes with Sunday? Well, Sunday Mass. Italian kids have to wait a bit longer before they can taste their Sunday meatballs. But whew! What a feast. But the most important part of the day is spending time with the whole family. Our large family would always find the time to come together on Sundays to catch up and tell our stories.

From bruschetta to anginetti, crazy get-togethers to Frank Sinatra playing in the background while helping your mother make pasta strips on a Sunday, childhood memories are fond to share and will always be cherished in my heart.



Photo Credits:
Photo By Ryan Dickey via

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by Rosalie H. Contino, PhD