Breaking Bread with Italians on Thanksgiving

Bringing the American holiday to Italy proved to be truly memorable for ISDA Contributing Editor Tony Traficante.

By: Tony Traficante, a Contributing Editor for ISDA

Thanksgiving in Italy?

Sorry, folks, mi dispiace. Italy does not have a Thanksgiving holiday.

But, they do commemorate La Festa del Ringraziamento, “The Feast of Thanks” — a way to offer thanks to a patron Saint for a bountiful fall harvest.

Besides there are no birds, like our American turkey, lurking around the hills and dales of Italy’s beautiful landscape.

Nor will you find the unique Thanksgiving food items in an Italian food store.

And, certainly, there is no such thing as a Plymouth Rock along the craggy coastlines of Italy, to add ambiance to the occasion.

So, the only people who might observe Thanksgiving in Italy would be the American military and expats.

Years ago, stationed in Vicenza, Italy and recently married, Monica and I prepared to observe our first Thanksgiving.

Since neither of our families was available to be with us, Monica asked, “Why don’t we invite an Italian family to share the holiday with us?” What a great idea!

Enzio lorio, the Italian civilian foreman for the Army Consolidated Maintenance Shops, near Vicenza, Italy, was a close friend, and personal interpreter.

Not that I didn’t speak or understand Italian, mind you. But, working around the repair shops, staffed with Italian impiegati, “employees,” I looked to Enzio to translate the Italian tech terms.

Okay, so he also ciphered my Basilicata dialect for the employees, most of whom were from northern Italy.

Red, that’s what we called Enzio, a native of Trieste. He was a tall, burly, gentle bear of a man with a shock of red hair.

A loyal employee of the U.S. American military, he knew of Thanksgiving from hearing the American GIs speak of it, but never experienced a real Thanksgiving meal.

So, Monica and I agreed that Enzio, his wife Maria and young daughter Claudia were the perfect family to share Thanksgiving dinner with. They were excited with promises that it was to be an authentic American Thanksgiving meal, not the typical Italian holiday fare of ravioli, meatballs, sausage, and ricotta pie.

And, fortunately, Monica was able to find all the different Thanksgiving staples at the Camp Ederle Army Commissary.

Since Monica had never cooked a Thanksgiving meal, let alone a 15 to 20-pound turkey, the pressure was on.

As I tried to describe what a typical Thanksgiving dinner consisted of, Monica, a master cook, whipped up a fabulous spread. What a team! It turned out to be a culinary feast (even after discovering we had left the pouch of gizzards, hearts, etc., in the bird)!

It was such a delight, and compliment, to see our guests enjoy the meal.

While Red consumed almost half the turkey himself, we all pitched in, to gobble-up the yams, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie!

Even though RAI TV didn’t show any of the typical American football games, it was a perfect day. As the Iorios were leaving — happily with a ton of leftovers — we went through the customary Italian farewells of exchanging a round of hugs and kisses.

What a memorable experience, to have shared this timeless American tradition with Italian friends.

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