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Top Italian Chef and Others Are Making a Difference Through Food in Upstate New York

Top Italian Chef and Others Are Making a Difference Through Food in Upstate New York


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In our Cookbook of the Week section, The Daily Meal covers some amazing works of authors, nutritionists, chefs, and cooks. However, this week we delve a little deeper.

Feeding the Heart: Recipes Flavors and the Seed to Belly Philosophy of the Department of Nourishment Arts is a cookbook that was recently released as a testament to the unique culinary and nourishment program at The Center for Discovery.

Just 90 minutes outside New York City, at the base of the Catskill Mountains, The Center for Discovery spans more than 1,000 acres, including 250 acres of biodynamic and organic farm land, providing dedicated services to children and adults with severe disabilities, particularly autism.

The Center has developed an incredibly comprehensive program creating individual treatment plans for each of its residents. This is true for not only the educational, housing, medical, and extra-curricular programs, but quite notably for the culinary program.

The Center contends that the cornerstone of caregiving is to nourish; and at its most basic, “nourishment is the food that sustains life.” When founder Patrick Dollard began working with mentally disabled persons in 1982, he recalled, “When I would visit large institutions, food was a negative. Food was slop. In these settings the food, you couldn’t get it out of your nostrils.” Moreover, modern-day behavioral treatments often use food as a reward — usually unhealthy junk food — making so that a huge segment of the community becomes obese.

To address this, Dollard, with the help of renowned Italian chef Cesare Casella, a member of The Daily Meal Council, created the Department of Nourishment Arts (DNA).

DNA’s commitment to better eating literally starts with the seeds planted on its 250 acres of biodynamic and organic farm land. Seed to belly, the department uses food as medicine. Dollard tells us that “individuals with autism often have compromised immune systems [and] 70 percent of the immune system is based in the gut. So food is medicine.” Meals are catered to each resident and his or her medical needs. The department’s culinary staff prepares meals family-style within resident homes (residents live in small groups in real houses — avoiding the “institution” feel altogether) and are coaches of better eating habits.

Click here for featured recipes from Feeding The Heart

Casella, who is always seen with his breast pocket full of rosemary and other herbs, also implemented the DaVinci Master Chef program, inviting the culinary elite to come to the Center to hold seminars for the deptarment’s culinary staff. From Chef Mark Ladner (Del Posto) and April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig) to Jacques Torres (Jacques Torres Chocolates) and Gaetano Arnore (Babbo), the Master Chef program inspires resident cooks, elevating their culinary knowledge and abilities. “Traditionally, in a restaurant the goal is to make beautiful food that tastes good. At The Center we do the opposite. We start with great nutrition and make food taste better,” Casella says. “Then it’s really beautiful.”

But don’t think that the dedicated staff is doing all the work! An important component of the farm is to not only connect residents to nature — again distancing the Center from the “institution” feel — but to also cultivate fine motor skills. Residents can be seen planting seeds or even in the hen house collecting, sorting, and sanitizing eggs. This egg program in particular is a joy for many residents. Dollard tells us, “We have a resident who came to us after some violent episodes. People thought it was crazy to get him involved with eggs, but it changed his life. It was connection for him, caring for the animals.”

Each of the tasks the residents engage in can be modified for their abilities. Tables operate on a lever, raising and lowering to accommodate a wheelchair, and handles and knobs are adjusted for all ranges of motion so that all can participate and feel included.

Working with produce also helps residents become more familiar and comfortable with food and meals. Jennifer Franck, assistant chief of DNA, described that out in the field, residents touch the produce. They smell it and in that act bring it up to their lips; it is an important step in introducing new and healthy foods into diets, especially for picky eaters.

In this cookbook, the recipes come from the Center as well as its Master Chefs. The recipes use whole foods meant to positively impact the immune system. Click here to see a list of recipes exclusively shared with The Daily Meal.

Rachael Pack is Cook Editor of The Daily Meal. Follow her on Instagram @rachael_pack


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale


Red Sauce Slang 101: The Secret Language of Classic Italian Restaurants

After being force-fed stereotypes based on a “mamma mia!”-like artifice—perpetuated by everyone from Chef Boyardee, to that charismatic sidewalk barker in Little Italy trying to dupe tourists into trying their chicken marsala—it's easy to wonder if our knowledge of Italian-American culture is completely out of wack with reality.

Do real-life "Goodfellas" actually make “Sunday gravy”? Do Italian families really eat “family-style”? And what's this “gabagool” stuff Paulie Walnuts keeps ordering?

Italian rituals and eating habits have deeply embedded themselves in mainstream America. As a result, classic “red sauce” restaurants exist all over the country, defined as much by the warmth of their waitstaff as their distinct patois. Still, one interesting difference between red-sauce joints and say, Jewish delis or Mexican taquerías, is that many of the terms being tossed around like pizza pies at Italian joints reflect a language that doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of it is, when people came over here from Italy, they couldn’t say a certain word. So they’d make it up,” explains Carla Pallotta of the half-English/half-Italian patois spoken in many Italian-American kitchens. That probably explains why you could not find many of these so-called “Italian” words in any sort of proper dictionary (and why no one knows exactly how to spell a few of these ‘spoken-only’ words).

Further muddling red-sauce slang is the unique mix of Italians on any given restaurant staff: You might have a big-city Roman chef, a Sicilian waiter, perhaps a bread-maker from the Umbrian or Tuscan countryside, and then a second- or third-generation Italian-American owner trying to make it work. They’re all bringing their own long-held beliefs and styles and terminologies to the table—which is probably why so much of the following slang seems predicated on discussing just how stupid your fellow co-workers are. Un fesso!

To help understand this unique culinary vernacular, we reached out to a handful of red-sauce restaurateurs for help:

  • Frank DePasquale , owner of Trattoria il Panino (Boston), as well seven other Italian restaurants, a cannoli shop, bakery, salumeria, and gelateria
  • Kami Drake Epps , co-owner of Gola Osteria (New York’s Finger Lakes Region)
  • Martino Martinez , general manager of Pane Vino On the River (Rochester, NY)
  • Carla and Christine Pallotta , sisters and co-owners of Nebo (Boston)
  • Ralph Scamardella , chef and partner of Tao Group, overseeing LAVO Italian Restaurants (New York and Las Vegas)

A capa nun è bona

A dumb co-worker or customer. “The brain is dead.”—DePasquale

Bacasa

The bathroom/toilet. “The backhouse.”—the Pallottas

Basta!

Translates to “enough!” As in, when someone keeps filling your wine glass and you’ve already had one too many.—Epps

Cafone

Someone “from the mountains” in other words, a boor who doesn’t have the mannerisms to dine the right way. “They come into my restaurant, they don’t know how to hold a fork, they’re stabbing at the meat. Guy gives you a glass of wine, he holds it by the bulb and not the stem."—DePasquale

Cicchetti

Small, snack-sized plates of food.—Epps

Ciofeca

A shitty coffee/espresso.—DePasquale

Cupina

Pidgin for ladle. “Get it? It’s a cup.”—Pallotta

Cuzzuso

A worker who is dirty and doesn’t keep his station or table clean. One with no elegance.—DePasquale

Eggs tight

Sunny side up eggs.—Scamardella

Fra Diavolo

Italian for “Brother Devil.” Refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood.—Martinez

Fries with eyes

Fried smelt fish.—the Pallottas

Gravy

“A lotta old-timers call what you put on your pasta ‘gravy.' But that’s not gravy—gravy is for meat. It’s sauce!”—DePasquale

Impallato

A guy that is lazy and doesn’t do his work because his head is in the clouds.—DePasquale

Oof-ah

Spectacular, great. Can be used for a beautiful woman—or a beautifully-cooked steak.—Scamardella

Meno male!

“Thank God!” (When your favorite dessert is still on the menu.)—Epps

Mopena

A dishcloth. “We didn’t even know this wasn’t what it was actually called until we left high school!”—Carla Pallotta

My sister’s ass

Sloppy, something you’d never want to look at. “I get a dish from a line cook, look at it, and say, ‘my sister’s ass,' and the cook must go redo it before it goes to the dining room.”—Scamardella

Paccheri

An obscure pasta shape. Neapolitan slang for “slop,” because when you cook this big, rigatoni-like pasta it flattens out unpleasantly.—DePasquale

Rigot

Ricotta. “With New York/New Jersey Italians, everything is cut short for them: Rigot. Bruschette. Prosciut.”—Carlo Pallotta

Salute

It means “to your health” when toasting wine. “But don’t put the glass down afterwards. That’s very offensive. You have to sip it immediately, or it means you don’t wish them good health.”—DePasquale

Sament

The “seeds of a watermelon,” as in a person that is the lowest of the lowest. An imbecile.—DePasquale

Schifezza

The worst of the worst terrible food.—DePasquale

Schula macaroni/ schula pasta

A strainer/colander.—the Pallottas

Sfortunato

Used for when someone pours the wine incorrectly. “They way you should always pour is with your forehand, not a backhand. If a waiter pours with a backhand he’s wishing you bad luck!”—DePasquale

Slice

Means to fire a person get ’em out of here fast.—the Pallottas

Spiedino

Meat, vegetable, or seafood cooked on a skewer. This is where the upstate New York term speedie originates.—Epps

Spuckies

Struvvoli

An intentional mispronunciation of struffoli, the fried dough balls with honey and little beads over them.—the Pallottas

Sweetie

Short for sweetbreads—the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and sometimes beef or pork. When fried, it has a crispy crust and is creamy on the inside.—Epps

Terre Mare

Translates to “Earth and Sea”—the Italian version of American “Surf and Turf.”

Un fesso

A cook that can’t figure something out because he’s not bright. Can also be used when someone makes a foolish mistake in the kitchen.—DePasquale



Comments:

  1. Karlitis

    Never better!

  2. Tezuru

    A fascinating message

  3. Mosegi

    What words ... super, wonderful thought

  4. Denton

    Actual blog, fresh info, read :)



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