“In the early years my brother and I conversed only in Italian. In fact all of the cousins that resided in the apartments over the restaurant spoke only in Italian! What is weird is that I remember watching TV and cartoons like Felix the Cat! My favorite! I must have known what they were saying since I remember enjoying it so much. By the time I started kindergarten I still couldn’t speak any English, yet I understood English enough to know that my classmates were making fun of the fact that I couldn’t speak English!
Our parents, Italian immigrants, were only a few years in America when they decided to open up an Italian restaurant. It was very important for them to preserve their Italian heritage. And one way was to make sure their American children spoke fluent Italian. While my dad was here with 2 of his 5 siblings, my mom immigrated here with her parents and 6 siblings. Socializing was only with our huge Italian family. The only English we were privy to was what we watched on television and the rare occasions we were allowed in the restaurant! But once I started kindergarten everything changed. I was the pioneer who brought English into the house and spoke with all of my younger cousins. I was reprimanded many times!! What is very funny is that as I became more fluent in English, I started realizing the words I thought were Italian weren’t really Italian. They were actually English with an Italian twist. I am laughing to myself as I remember all of this. You see as much as we were isolated from English speaking Americans we were also isolated from proper speaking Italians! As our parents worked in the restaurant, English words became part of their vocabulary. Those English words morphed into Italian words either because of their thick accents or because they knew no other way to pronounce them. Unbeknownst to my brother, my cousins and I, those morphed Italian words were not authentic Italian. Thank goodness our parents took us to Italy every summer so we could “tune up” our Italian.
As much as our Italian suffered our English did not! Our parents were astute enough to know that they could never teach their children English. We only spoke Italian at home so we never got confused. We all learned proper English from school. Although I did end up having some remnants of only speaking Italian in the early years. My biggest handicap was trouble with the “TH” sound. It sometimes came out sounding like a T. It was my 4th grade teacher Sister Mary Regis who insisted that I learn to properly pronounce the “TH” sound. My mamma went to school explaining that I had trouble with it because we spoke Italian at home. Sister Mary Regis told my mom that it was not a good excuse and that it was mandatory that I learn to pronounce “TH” sound properly. I soon overcame my problem with “TH”! But every now and then if I have to put thumb and tongue or thong and tong in the same sentence I get all tongue tied. There is one Italianglish word, which has lingered from my years living on top of the restaurant that my own children get hysterical about. It’s the way I say sandwich. I have the worst time pronouncing that word in proper English! I used to think that sanguiccio was the word for sandwich in Italian. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that it was really just sandwich said with an Italian accent. I still catch myself saying sangwich. On second thought I don’t even know I am doing it! It is my children who love to point out to me that I say “sangwich”. My sister reminded me of the word frontaruma, she said it wasn’t until her 20’s when it dawned on her that frontaruma was not Italian but the English word for front room (1960’s word used for living room!!).
Don’t get me wrong I can easily go to Italy and understand most everything and can make myself understood by the Italians. I am very conscious of when I get a blank stare I know that I just used an Italianglish word. But I have noticed that the Italians in Italy also use English words in their everyday vernacular. For example, hamburger is an English loan word in the Italian language. It’s a masculine noun that’s the same in the singular and the plural. It’s pronounced ‘AHM-boor-ghehr’.”
I decided to change things up from the garlic and oil based recipes for this week. Instead I thought I would share another popular sauce from the restaurant. Marsala Wine and Mushroom Sauce! We used it on Veal Scaloppini and also on chicken, shrimp, scallops,filet of sole and even pasta! I thought I would use veal in this recipe. In the restaurant we used the best milk fed veal to get the most tender pieces. For the home cook it may be a little harder to get the best veal. I tried two different local grocery stores to get the veal and neither were labeled milk fed. You can tell by the color of the veal if it’s milk fed. Milk fed veal has a pink color and more expensive than the grass fed version. The prices ranged from $14.99 to $18.99 a pound. I tried both and the milk fed was much more tender. They are both labeled as veal cutlets and the better quality one was labeled veal cutlet top round. You only need a pound to serve 4 people.
Take a veal cutlet and cut it in half across the grain to make a smaller piece called a medallion. A pound of veal should yield 12 medallions.
Pound each piece with a meat tenderizer with the side with small teeth about 3-4 times each side.
Object is to make small round medallions. Salt and dredge the medallions in flour.
Fry the prepared veal in canola oil. The veal is thin so it’s less than a minute on each
Marsala Wine and Mushroom Sauce
½ cup salted butter (8 Tbs)
1 cup of veal stock or chicken stock (unsalted)
6 oz of Marsala Wine ( dry not sweet) (grocery store cooking marsala wine is fine)
6 dashes Tabasco Sauce
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbs chopped Italian parsley
10 oz (weight) of sliced white mushrooms (6 large)
Prepare the veal ( or Chicken, pork,shrimp,scallops, or filet of sole). Salt the veal and dredge in flour. Fry in canola oil.
Pour out oil from the skillet and deglaze with Marsala Wine.
Clean off mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Don’t wash them or they will absorb all the water. Then slice.
Add the meat back in the skillet.
Add the rest of the ingredients, butter, stock, Tabasco, salt, parsley and mushrooms.
Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes and remove the veal.
Continue to simmer for 2 minutes longer to thicken the sauce.
and then pour the sauce over the veal and serve.
You can also double the sauce and serve it over pasta.