The Italian Sunday Lunch
I’ve always envied the people who talked about Sunday Lunch with their family, having nonna’s “gravy” and eating for hours with the family at the table. It seemed so much fun to belong to a culture that reveres food and prioritizes the time spent together eating.
Growing up, we had Sunday “dinners” around 4:00 after a morning spent at Sunday mass, either with my grandparents or immediate family, usually with some kind of roast or soup that had been cooking all day and always spending time together as a family, if not always surrounding a table.
After moving to a different country, I count myself so so lucky to have traditional, Italian Sunday Lunches with Edoardo’s family, where it’s completely next level in terms of the time spent preparing and eating food. In the spirit of sharing more about what life in Italy is actually like, for the people who live and work here, I wanted to write about what a typical lunch for us.
We all show up around 1:00, or at least the Italian version of 1:00 which usually involves us rushing out the door at the last minute to get there and as we pull up, seeing Edoardo’s mom peeking out the window looking for us or texting us about “putting the pasta down”. After arrival, we greet everyone there with a kiss on both cheeks and move right to the table.
The table is already set with the good linens, plates and crystal if it’s a *big* day. Maybe there are appetizers (prosciutto, cheese or olives) that people are snacking on but all conversation stops when the pasta magically appears. As Franca dishes out the pasta, out of a pot or heavy platter, full of whichever sauce she chose for the occasion, everyone does the dance of trying to get as manageable of a portion as possible. You hear, “solo un po’!” or “basta, basta!” being repeated around the table as she tries to give you just one more scoop than you think you can handle.
Just when you think you can’t eat anymore, the secondo comes out. Some lovely baked whole fish or heapings of meat on a platter surrounded by 3 vegetable dishes, bread and olive oil to put on absolutely everything. Of course, there’s either red or white wine being passed around, depending on the season and menu of the day.
Usually at this point I’m unbuttoning my pants but dessert is a MUST so if Franca hasn’t made anything (her tiramisu is something really special), then someone has probably brought a cake, pastries or gelato to share. Of course there’s also an overflowing fruit bowl that only makes you feel guilty about what you’ve eaten so far and anything taken from it has to be peeled/sliced/deconstructed as much as possible before being declared fit to eat. Then, after-dinner drinks like grappa, rum, and limoncello are passed around to help digest the huge meal you’ve just consumed.
Now comes the part of the meal that takes some mental fortitude if you’re a fast eater like me and grew up having dinner and getting up from the table as quickly as possible. Italians can sit for *hours* at a table, extending to after the meal too, first having their coffee, maybe picking at some fruit or dessert but mostly just chatting with one another. It truly teaches you how to appreciate the moment and slowwww down. And when you finally do get used to it, it becomes so nice just to sit with people you care about and talk about anything under the sun—up until I reach my breaking point and head over to the couch for my food-coma nap ;)
I would love to know what Sunday lunch with your family is like? Do you have strong traditions surrounding it or is it more casual?