Dinner with La Famiglia

Aci Sant'Antonio Travel Blog

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The villa grounds as parking lot
Sunday, 10/4/09

Mom was up early, starting the cooking. I had only been speaking with Ale and Lino via text, and as best I could figure, there were 7 of them coming - possibly up to 10, so I set the table for 13, figuring there were 6 of us and most likely 7 of them, and if a few more showed up, some of us could sit on the couch or stand. I knew Zia Pina and Zio Carmelo were in Catania to stay with their daughters, so they were coming, but I wasn’t sure we’d see anyone else from Gagliano until we went there.

The party was planned for 2pm, with dinner at 3pm. At 12:45 there was a car beeping at the gate, and sure enough, some of the relatives showed up an hour and a quarter early.
Antipasto time
Luckily, we were mostly ready - only the chicken oreganata needed to be grilled and the pasta thrown in the water.

I didn’t recognize the first car-load of relatives. As they got out of the car, I briefly wondered if word got out that rich Americans were feeding people for free, and the whole town of Gagliano was going to show up. One cousin practically ran over to me asking if I was Patrizia, and then pulling out a photo of him as a 5-year-old with my Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary, explaining he was Aunt Giovanna’s son. I didn’t even know who Aunt Giovanna was. Then, as the rest of his family reached the house, he explained that Giovanna is Giuseppina, Antonina and Petrina’s other sister - the one I never knew existed!

And the cars kept coming. About 23 people in all (plus the 6 of us).
Zia Antonina and me
We had trouble counting because we all kept getting sucked into conversations, and Liz, Mags & I had to do translation duty. I barely had time to chat with my cousin, Mariolina, whom I've been corresponding with for 20 years. The aunts, especially Antonina, would not let go of me or Mom. It was funny watching Mom try to converse with them. Mom doesn't speak Italian, and the family (with the exception of about 3 cousins) doesn't speak English. None of them could understand each other, but they’d continue on as if they did - speaking 2 different conversations for long periods. Dad was outside grilling in the covered grill area. Several of the male relatives made it a point to go over and chat with him there, even though they didn't have a language in common.

The cousins all took a tour of the house - marveling at how big it was and taking photos.
Dinner time 2
They thought we must be rich (although when you split it with 9 people, it's really not bad). They had all brought photos, and stuff I had sent them over the years: Zia Antonina had a postcard of me promoting the Importance of Being Earnest - I play I did probably 15 years ago. We showed them photos of Great Grandma and Great Grandpa, and the rest of the family. I asked them if they could do a family tree for all of the Scialfa sisters (my aunts are my Great Grandfather's nieces. My Great Grandpa, Carmelo, emigrated to the US, and his brother, Salvatore, stayed in Sicily, having 4 daughters. They traced all the lines and filled in all the last names, the kids, etc., so I have a clear family tree of the Sicilian branch of the family that I can explain to the rest of my relatives back in the US.
The BEST cannolis ever (and, I hate to say, that includes Conca d'Oro bakery in Union, NJ)


Of course, we had only planned for a dinner for 13...now it was more like 30. Luckily, my parents always cook for an army. I said to some of the relatives that I was worried we would not have enough food - we didn't know everyone was coming. They said not to worry, that they really just wanted to see us. But still. We (Mom, Dad, Me, Liz, Mags) didn’t eat any of the chicken oreganata, and only had little bits of the roasted veggies, the sausage. and the cavatelli with broccoli. Everything went over great - except for the cavatelli, which Dad and I think Mom over-sauced (and overcooked). The Sicilians don't like the massive amount of sauce that the Americans like - it's just a little flavoring to them. And they never overcook their pasta here - sacrilege!

Liz, Mags and I had bought pastries from Cafe Vittorio in Aci ? (there are 7 Aci towns, and I never knew which one I was in).
Cousin Saro (Rosario) and his daughter Antonella
We had one big box of pastries and cannoli, plus a big box of cookies - and then 3 of the relatives walked in with huge boxes of pastries. One was just cannoli from Gagliano (which were the best I’ve ever had), another box was specialties of Gagliano, and the third had Sicilian specialties, including marzipan and an almond brittle.

I took photos and videos, but it didn’t seem like enough. It was overwhelming trying to be everywhere and try to have conversations and translate, etc. Lots of kids were there too, and they were having fun with the 3 little kittens in the yard, and the soccer ball Dad found back there, and they all wanted to go in the pool, but the weather stayed drizzly until the way end of the day when everyone left and it cleared up. Ale was playing billiards with some of the kids.
La Famiglia: Back row--Marisa, Vito, Dad, Rossanna, Piero, Saro, Zio Carmelo, Mariolina. Middle row--Alessandro(?), Giusy(?), Me, Zia Antonina, Mom, Zia Giuseppina. Front row--Ale, Lino, Antonella, Giochina.


At some point, everyone migrated outside. After some more chat, they asked when we would be coming to Gagliano. The aunts all said that Thursday would be best, so we said we would see them then.

They stayed for 4 hours, and it was absolutely surreal...and exhausting! I’m lucky I was even dressed! It felt like a Fellini movie - complete chaos, loud, big personalities, funny, moving. After they left, we all just plopped down on one of the side patios with a bottle of wine and relaxed. A great day.
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The villa grounds as parking lot
The villa grounds as parking lot
Antipasto time
Antipasto time
Zia Antonina and me
Zia Antonina and me
Dinner time 2
Dinner time 2
The BEST cannolis ever (and, I hat…
The BEST cannolis ever (and, I ha…
Cousin Saro (Rosario) and his daug…
Cousin Saro (Rosario) and his dau…
La Famiglia:  Back row--Marisa, Vi…
La Famiglia: Back row--Marisa, V…
Dinner time
Dinner time
Dad at the grill
Dad at the grill
Zio Carmelo, Dad and Zia Antonina …
Zio Carmelo, Dad and Zia Antonina…
Roasted veggies, cheese, bread, ol…
Roasted veggies, cheese, bread, o…
Mom and Lino (cousin Mariolinas h…
Mom and Lino (cousin Mariolina's …
Zia Pina, Mom and Zia Antonina
Zia Pina, Mom and Zia Antonina
Zia Giuseppina with Liz, Mom & Dad
Zia Giuseppina with Liz, Mom & Dad
Liz and Vito - thank goodness Liz …
Liz and Vito - thank goodness Liz…
Vito and his sister Sevi (Salvina)
Vito and his sister Sevi (Salvina)
Specialty pastries from Gagliano (…
Specialty pastries from Gagliano …
More Sicilian sweets - pistachio p…
More Sicilian sweets - pistachio …
Antonella, Saro, Me and Mags durin…
Antonella, Saro, Me and Mags duri…
Antonella, her mom Giochina, and P…
Antonella, her mom Giochina, and …
Liz, Dad and Vito
Liz, Dad and Vito
Liz, Dad and Vito
Liz, Dad and Vito
Zio Carmelo, Ale and Saro
Zio Carmelo, Ale and Saro
The kids wanted to go in the pool …
The kids wanted to go in the pool…
Dad, Me, Zia Antonina, Mom, Zia Pi…
Dad, Me, Zia Antonina, Mom, Zia P…
Mom and Dad debrief after a very f…
Mom and Dad debrief after a very …
Mags makes herself a spritz (pro…
Mags makes herself a "spritz" (pr…
Lovely almond wine from Piazza Arm…
Lovely almond wine from Piazza Ar…
Looking out at Etna at the end of …
Looking out at Etna at the end of…
Close-up of sunset on Etna.
Close-up of sunset on Etna.
Aci Sant'Antonio
photo by: puttyland