Speak like an Italian: words we borrow from Italy

dolce vita fellini movieItalian phrases: That’s a poster from Federico Fellini’s 1960 classic film, left, “La Dolce Vita” (which means literally “sweet life”), gave the English language not one but two popular expressions.

Italian has given the English-speaking world so many wonderful words and phrases. Here are a few of them and their origins.


This word was coined by Italian director Federico Fellini for his 1960 film La dolce vita. One of the photographers that follows the main characters around Rome is named Paparazzi. Read the rest of this page »

Relax like an Italian: Go basketball crazy!

smardo samuelsAbove: The Italian professional basketball league is hugely popular among fans (image via Basket Streaming).

No, that’s not a photograph from a recent Cleveland Cavaliers game above.

The athlete in the image is Samardo Samuels, who plays for A-series Italian basketball champions Emporio Armani Olimpia Milano. Read the rest of this page »

Cook like an Italian in fall: roast chestnuts

recipe roast chestnuts

Above: The recipe for roasting chestnuts at home is easy. Just arrange the chestnuts in a seasoned cast iron pan and roast on your stovetop over low heat. When the shells start to opena and the chestnuts become tender, they’re ready to eat.

From the island of Sicily to Italy’s Dolomite alps, the tradition of roasting chestnuts in fall is practically sacred.

Across the boot, as the weather starts to get cold and the leaves turn to brown, you’ll find vendors slow-roasting chestnuts in the piazzas.

And every Italian will tell you that the aroma of roasting chestnuts brings back great memories of childhood and time spent with family.

It’s easy to roast chestnuts at home.

You can do it on a grill: whether gas-, wood-, or charcoal-fired, just arrange the chestnuts on the grill and roast slowly over low heat for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally until tender (cooking time may vary). When the shells start to opena and the chestnuts become tender, they’re ready to eat.

You can also do it on a stovetop: a seasoned cast iron pan is ideal for this.

Once the chestnuts are ready to eat, open a bottle of Mazzoni Piemonte Barbera (a classic pairing), close your eyes, breath in the aromas of the wine and chestnuts, and you’ll be transported to an Italian piazza on a fall day.

Drink like an Italian: Barbera?

best barbera italy wine

What is Barbera and where does it come from? And most importantly, why does a Tuscan winemaker use it to make one of his favorite wines?

Let’s face it: Not a lot of folks in America know what Barbera is. They may know their Cabernet from their Chardonnay and maybe their Merlot from their Malbec. But in more cases than not, most American wine lovers have ever heard of Barbera.

In fact, Barbera (pronounced bahr-BEH-rah) is one of Italy’s most popular grape varieties. Especially in northern Italy, it’s a dinnertime favorite for people who enjoy light-bodied, food-friendly red wines.

The thing that sets Barbera apart is its high amounts of natural acidity.

Acidity, you ask with a sour face?

As harsh as the word sounds, acidity in wine is actually a good thing. It’s what gives wine its freshness and it’s one of the components in a balanced wine that helps to make it food-friendly.

Just as acidity in vinegar or lemon juice helps to “cook” food in marinades, acidity in wine helps to draw out the flavors in food pairings.

That’s just one of the reasons why Italians love it so much.

So why is a Tuscan winemaker in central Italy like Alessandro Bindocci, who is known for his Mazzoni Sangiovese-Merlot blend, making a Barbera using grapes grown in northern Italy?

He fell in love with Barbera during his travels across the north of Italy. But he was disappointed to discover that many winemakers prefer oaky and overly concentrated versions of Barbera wines. And so he decided that he would make Barbera the way that he likes it: in a clean and refreshing style, light bodied, with fresh fruit aromas and flavors.

His family partnered with grape growers in the Asti region northwestern Italy, where the most famous bottles of Barbera are produced.

And thus was born his delicious Mazzoni Piemonte (Piedmont) Barbera, one of the best and most value-driven bottles of Barbera available in the U.S. today.

Dress like an Italian man: accessorize with a scarf

handsome italian man

Above: Men’s fashion in Italy.

The fall has officially arrived and with it comes one of our favorite times of the year, here at Live Like an Italian: time to accessorize with scarves!

In other era, social convention dictated that men — in Italy and the U.S. — had to wear a tie to work every day.

Those days are over and most businesses in America and Italy no longer require a necktie in the workplace.

In our view, that’s a bummer because WE LOVE TIES (stay tuned for another post on ties soon).

The good news is that scarves are the new ties: they allow men to make a fashion statement by adding color to their daily ensemble.

Of course, in Italy, scarves have always been in fashion, partly because Italians hate cold air and they always concerned about drafts and their perceived health effects.

In fact, Italian men often wear their scarves indoors as well!

So this fall, as you gear up for work or school or whatever, add some colorful scarves to your wardrobe and accessorize like an Italian man!

Blog like an Italian: 5 best Italian food blogs

best homemade pasta recipe

Best Italian food blog? When it comes to the top online resources for Italian recipes and cooking techniques, no one holds a noodle to Briciole (above).

Last week we blogged about how to food shop like an Italian.

This week, we’d like to share some of our favorite resources for Italian recipes and cooking techniques on the internet: Italian food blogs!

In another era, recipes were handed down in notebooks and favorite recipe collections, often from generation to generation.

That tradition continues to this day in Italy, where mothers (yes, mostly mothers) still share dog-eared recipe albums with daughters and sons (yes, sons, too!).

The internet hasn’t caused the phenomenon to disappear. Exactly the opposite: many Italian food bloggers are inspired by their parents’ and families’ culinary legacies and they take to the web to document, share, and trade notes with like-minded Italian foodies.

The follow are 5 of our favorite Italian food blogs.


Pronounced BREE-choh-leh, this blog has it all: recipes and technique, amazing photography, concise videos, and wonderful insights into Italian cuisine, culture, and language by an Italian living in California.

Italian Food Forever

This blog is by an American ex-pat living (currently) in Umbria. The site is chock-full of recipes, gorgeous photography, and a fantastic “kitchen tips” section with a glossary, substitutions for food products not available here in the U.S., and conversions (very important when you need to use a recipe written using the metric system).

Coco de Mama

Loosely translated, coco de mama means mommy’s little baby and the title couldn’t be more appropriate for this blog inspired by recipes by the author’s mother and grandmother. “When I was growing up, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was spoiled!” writes the author on his about page. “I had 2 of the best chefs under one roof, my Grandmother Nonna Sara and my Mama Francesca, who made every meal from scratch and with love.”

Over a Tuscan Stove

Whether hamming it up (pun intended) with one of Italy’s biggest food stars, the Italian butcher Dario Cecchini, or sharing the nitty gritty on Sicilian street food, Over a Tuscan Stove is always a great read. The author’s life seems to be as fabulous as her cooking.

Emiko Davies

Emiko tends to focus on Tuscany and Tuscan cooking on her blog because that’s where she lived for many years. But she also branches out into other regional cuisine as well. Her recipes are very precise and nearly foolproof and we really love her index of recipes (which makes the blog really easy to browse and search).

Are you an Italian food blogger? Let us know about your site by leaving a comment on this post!

Food shop like an Italian: farmers markets & organic produce

fresh fruit markets italy

Above: Farmers markets and organic produce abound in Italy, where wholesome ingredients are a quintessential part of the Italian life style.

If you’ve ever been to Italy during summer, then you know that the tomatoes taste so much better there.

There’s a reason for that. And it’s not because Italians use gardening products to make their fruits and vegetables more robust or more flavorful.

In fact, there are a number of reasons why produce seems to taste better there on average.

- Italians food shop and cook seasonally. Tomatoes come into season during late spring and summer. No self-respecting Italian would serve you a tomato during the fall. At the end of summer, Italian families peel, seed, purée, and bottle their tomato crop (or they go buy tomatoes at a farmers market).

- Farmers market abound in Italy. Nearly every Italian city has a weekly if not daily farmer’s market where the growers sell their produce directly to families. The good news for us Americans is that more and more U.S. cities have farmers markets these days. Just Google your city’s name and “farmers market” and you might be surprised what you find.

- Italians prize organically grown food. Organic farming is just starting to catch on here in the U.S. But in Europe, it’s been popular for decades now. In fact, Italians see organic farming not only as a way to deliver better-tasting and more wholesome food. They also view it as a civic responsibility. If everyone farmed organically, i.e., without the use of chemicals, the world would be a better place for our children and our children’s children, goes the logic.

Americans are still fundamentally challenged when it comes to buying top-quality, fresh, and organic fruits and vegetables.

If you don’t have a farmers market in your town, look for CSA or Community-Sustained Agriculture programs near you. These programs, which have popped up across the country, connect farmers directly with consumers.

And, of course, more and more these days, even the major chain and national speciality super markets carry more and more organic foods.

Food shop like an Italian! Not only will your food taste better, but you’ll also make the world a better place!


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