Dear Nonna: An Open Letter to the Italian American Matriarchs in Our Lives


As we celebrated Festa della Mamma, we also honored our Nonnas who love us like no other.

By: Rachel Vadaj, ISDA Editor 

For most of your life, you served as the matriarch to our Italian American famiglia. You naturally put your family before yourself without asking for anything in return. You carved a special place in your heart for each and every one of your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

You spent countless hours in the cucina to satisfy weekly cravings. If we looked like we hadn’t missed a meal, well, you were partially to blame. After all, there was no such thing as being full after just one serving.

Thank goodness you took the time to teach us how to recreate the dishes your Nonna passed down to you…not only because we want to pass them down ourselves, but because your recipe measurements wouldn’t find there way in a traditional cookbook with your “handfuls” of this and “pinches” of that.

You are a living history book full of stories of how our famiglia immigrated from Italy to America. You never let us forget the struggle our ancestors went through as they strived for the opportunities we enjoy today. With each story you pass down, the old world continues to live on in the new. The wealth of teachings, customs, and knowledge of our heritage you passed down to us is worth more than gold.

Your doting personality mixed with mischievous nature never failed to put a smile on our faces. You taught your children well, and they raised me as a parent should – with nurturing love, guiding rules, and educating discipline. But when it came to spending time with you, I cherished every minute.

I am so blessed to have you in my life. You molded me to be the person I am with each warm hug, heartfelt note, faithful prayer, delicious meal, eye-opening lesson, and day shared. I hope I have made you proud. I pray I can become at least half as good of a person that you were as you have made my world a better place.

Ti amo, Nonna.

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