Real Italian Thanksgiving Dinner
This morning I started planning Thanksgiving dinner, of course, with an Italian flair. Out of curiosity, I searched to see if there was anything out there that even slightly resemble what I grew up with and heard about. Guess what? Not-a-one. Let me introduce you to what a real Italian Thanksgiving dinner is like from before soup to past nuts:
- Pepperoni, wine-cheeses and crackers
- Prosciutto and green olives as well as black olives that are dried and then soaked in oil
- Braided Buffalo Mozzarella with tomatoes and parsley gently sprinkled on it
- And having some basil nearby is always a good thing
- Stuffed mushrooms (these were Frankie Boy’s favorite) —
Oh in the Italian culture, sometimes junior is known as boy or sonny. My brother (age 57) hates being called Frankie Boy now. However, in my family, he is Francesco’s son, so from now till forever, he is Frankie Boy. And no one, I mean no one, likes calling him that more than me.)
- Sometimes you may also have stuffed clams
- Sausage in the oil
- Also, at this phase of the event, drinks include things like Rob Roys, Manhattans, Scotch, Campari or Martinis
2. First Course
- Soupa escarole – if it has the little meatballs in it, it’s Italian Wedding Soup.
- Another option is pastina, escarole and shredded chicken soup.
Also on the table are Lupini beans, more olives, hard crust Italian bread, and butter as well as home-grated Parmesan cheese and dried roasted red pepper flakes. *The cheese can be sprinkled in the soup or on the bread.
This is eaten as all the minor sides are passed around. I’d like to tell you these are only cups of soup, but they are not. The bowls are large and deep,
Some might have wine at this point. For “the kids”, it’s usually a bottled water such as Pellegrino.
3. Second course
You’d think now is the time for Turkey. Not yet! Now it’s time for Lasagna. With the lasagna, is sauce-soaked meatballs, bracciola, sausage and possibly egg balls. Sauce is usually in a gravy boat, because we love it.
An antipasto is put on the table too. Antipasto in my family, was lettuce with tomatoes, prosciutto and olives as well as homemade oil and vinegar dressing. Some families save the salad for after all the courses. Mine didn’t. Here, it’s a side dish.
Now the wine comes out. Some families have a jug wine … Carlo Rossi perhaps. If you go with bottled wine, it’s a Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. These are hearty and pair well with the sauce.
4. Third course
Stuffed artichokes which is a mess when you have a table full of people with the artichoke dish and the leaf bowls.
5. Fourth course — The Key course of a Real Italian Thanksgiving Dinner
The turkey is brought to the table on a wooden dripping board. This is where the ceremonial carving takes place.
As the patriarch of the family becomes a Samurai Warrior sharpening the knife on the honing stick, all the sides come out.
That’s right; more food.
Mashed potatoes with butter and mozzarella inside, roasted potatoes in oil, and candied yams, squash (both mashed and in the gourd), cranberry jelly, crescent rolls, stuffing, garlic green bean casserole (no funions on top) and gravy are some of what you find.
Another gravy boat for the gravy? But, heck no! You’ll find gravy is put in a bowl with a silver ladle spoon.
Here’s the trick, gravy is spread as a gentle drizzle while sauce is a generous pour. That’s how we roll.
Wines are on the table, same as before. My dad also likes having peaches in his wine at this point in the meal. Why, because it cleanses the palate.
My dad also says Rinfreschi il palato tra una portata e l’altra. I guess when you transition from Italian food to Italian food, you have to get your palate ready for the change.
Drum roll, carving of the turkey begins. Relatives call out what piece of the turkey they want. Cousin Sal is always first to call dibs on the leg and Frankie Boy calls the other one.
6. Fifth course
Dessert? No not yet.
Time for roasted chestnuts, almonds and hazelnuts as well as walnuts are served. These are accompanied by the demitasse coffee and black coffee with the Sambuca and Anisette.
Let’s not forget the biscotti for dunking.
You’d think people would run out of things to talk about, but nope. The conversation, singing and laughing is just beginning.
7. Sixth Course
You have pumpkin pie, apple pie, blackberry pie, pecan pie, gelato, and whipped cream.
Shh, we also had Baily’s Irish Cream. Don’t tell anyone.
Do you think people are drunk and ready to bust? No, it’s just time for a short break.
8. All the men watch a few quarters of football
They may nap too, but they always unbutton their pants temporally. It’s supposed to be a secret, but we all know.
9. Home movies
When we were young, we’d get the super 8 camera, put up a portable screen and watch the events and family reunions from the last year. Now we are using wifi and linking the computer to the big screen TV.
I like the super 8-events better. It feels more nostalgic. In a storage unit, I have all the old super 8 films and slides because there also used to be slide shows.
9. More Soup
That’s right! Now there is turkey soup with pastina, more bread and more drinks and the ability to sample anything eaten at any point during the day.
By this time we’ve gone from about noon to 10 pm.
Time for the card game to start.
The night it isn’t over until someone is practically falling asleep at the table.
Once that happens, everyone decides which kids are sleeping over and which are going home and finding out who is coming over the next day for left overs.
Because we do it in an edited version the next day too.
Every family has some variations here and there, but this, in essence, is a real Italian Thanksgiving Dinner.
If anyone tells you that an Italian Thanksgiving includes dishes made with saffron or any other fad spices, they are not Italian. They are wannabes or trying to sell a cookbook.
Happy Thanksgiving week.