Send a virtual panettone or cookie tray to your friends and family with these Italian ecards

Merry Christmas, Buon Natale! With one month to Christmas Day, it’s time for the gift giving to begin.

Last year for the Christmas season I featured two classic holiday recipes on the blog: colluri and turdilli. This year more recipes are on their way, but I wanted to offer you, my readers, a special gift.

So here’s my holiday “thank you” to all of you that visit, read and share An Italian-Canadian Life. I’ve created three unique Italian ecards that you can send to your nearest and dearest, giving them a “taste” of the best of Italian Christmas foods. Send an ecard now


All Italians receive at least one or two panettones at Christmas (it’s a sweet cake-like bread). So now, you can send one virtually too! Maybe you’ll send it to someone you won’t be able to see this year, or send it to someone who hates getting their fourth or fifth panettone – just for fun.




biscotti_ecardYou can also send my favourite holiday food gift of all: a virtual cookie tray. Complete with amaretti cookies, peach pastries and cornetti, everyone loves getting a traditional Italian cookie tray to munch on through the season.





wine_ecardIf sweets aren’t your thing, send a virtual bottle of homemade wine. A bottle of red always get cracked open during holiday visits and everyone enjoys a glass, cheering in the new year.

So Merry Christmas/Buon Natale readers! Share the Italian foodie love!


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By |25/11/2013|Culture|0 Comments

Guest Post: Italian memories from Northern Ontario

family picture

What does it mean to be Italian in North America? Today An Italian-Canadian Life welcomes a guest post by Amy Di Nardo, a university student studying nursing in Toronto,  who hopes to work in the gerontology field.  She loves garlic, kitchen-floor dances, and espresso. (I can’t say I blame her…)

The neighborhood I currently live in Toronto (Downsview) is very diverse. If I go for a walk on a Saturday afternoon, it excites me to hear different languages — whether it be Yiddish, Italian or Russian being spoken at different intersections. At a nearby park, I see young children playing on the swings, while a group of elderly ladies walk by, deep in conversation.

I have lived in Toronto for just about two years and it was a huge transition. I found that it took a great deal of time to adjust to the the rhythm of a large city. In my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, I grew up in an Italian bubble. The city contains a very large Italian population relative to its size and due to its isolation from other major cities (nine hour drive to Toronto), a unique culture was created that lives and thrives within the community.

The ways in which ethnic communities interact, both internally and externally to other groups, seems very different in small versus metropolitan centres.

It didn’t take me much time to find an Italian presence in Toronto. The first experience I had was going to College Street for the Tarantella Festival. The street was closed off for dancing, musicians, vendors and artists such as Mimmo Cavallaro and Rionne Junno. I wouldn’t expect this sort of large-scale event to come to Sault Ste. Marie.

After this event, I was introduced to the popular GTA magazine, PanoramItalia, and the newspaper Lo Specchio. There were profiles, articles, events, language classes — everything you can think of! I quickly realized how organized and vastly different the Toronto Italian community is from Sault Ste. Marie — however, I still cannot put my finger on the exact variances.


By |12/11/2013|Culture|1 Comment

Guest Post: Life Lessons from Nonno’s Garden

2013-08-30 16.23.16

Jerry Buccilli joins us for his fourth guest post with An Italian-Canadian Life. We love his writing, memories and recipes and this is another great addition. Thanks Jerry!

My Dad will be celebrating his 80th birthday this May. He’s had a good, long and colorful life. Sometimes there were dark periods (as when mom passed away) but for the most part no regrets. Since his children began having children of their own we all began calling him “nonno”….even his own children. He’s proud of this reference and often says that his best accomplishment in life was to raise his family.

As with most Italian men of his generation he’s also incredibly proud of his garden. As far back as my memory takes me I remember my father working in the garden during the long summer months. He’d work there so much that we often had lunch outside so he could quickly return to his “work.”  There’d always be something to do: a tomato plant to tie so it wouldn’t fall over; zucchini to pick; herbs to cut, trim and hang up; watering, shoveling, cleaning, etc….There was always something.

Sometimes, when the garden was in full bloom and it was having a good year he would whistle or even sing. My mom would be sitting a few feet away near the patio and she’d ask him to sing to her. At first he would hesitate but then he’d begin to belt out some old tune and mom would smile.

Life was good. He was always the happiest in his garden with his wife by his side.

Often I would sit with him in the middle of the garden and we would talk. My father would tell me stories from his youth. Or his days in Venezuela when he and his father and brother travelled across the Atlantic to find work when WWII left Italy in economic upheaval and work were scarce.


By |19/09/2013|Culture|4 Comments

Celebrating Italian-style with Cheese Rolling and the Grease Pole Climb


A few weeks ago, the sun was bright in the sky and the clouds were moving swiftly past. Walking through a festival, I saw fingers in the crowd pointing upward and I had to squint to see what the commotion was. There, at the top of a very tall pole, a prosciutto was swaying in the breeze. It’s one of the stranger things I’ve seen, but for Guelph, Ontario, it’s a yearly occurrence.

Naturally for Italians, food is often a central part of celebrations. The annual Italian Festival in Guelph takes on two age-old Italian festa traditions featuring food: the Grease Pole Climb and Cheese Rolling. (I would also suggest it has a third – eat as much good food as you can!) Guelph is a perfect place to take in these events. Many Italians settled in this city and it’s said that even the name is a form of the Italian word “Guelfo.” Guelph is also a “sister city” with Provincia di Treviso, Italy.


My mother remembers the grease pole competitions in Italy as a child, happening when there was festas around a Saint’s Day or religious holiday. As the name suggests, competitors attempt to reach the top of a greased pole to win a prize. In Italy, a pole was erected in the town piazza and prizes of various foods were hung from the top. My mom recalls that the pole was not as greasy as the one here in Guelph and the wheel at the top holding the prizes also turned. So, once a competitor got to the top, grabbing a hold of the hanging meat or cheese was difficult.

By |22/08/2013|Culture|0 Comments

A little tarantella for the end of your week!


Everyone needs a little music in their week, so today I have a music video to share! Nothing is better for experiencing Italian culture in Canada than attending the various picnics, festivals and events that happen all summer. Recently, I attended the Ajax-Pickering Italian Social Club picnic which, besides being a gathering of the community, hosted Coro Italia – a local Italian folk singing group. The idle picnic chatter and raucous bocci games were punctuated by this large group of dedicated singers and musicians that sang familiar and traditional songs to om-pah beats and the whine of not one, but two accordions. I admire most the great passion Coro Italia has for keeping these songs alive.

For one special song, a few of the singers became dancers performing traditionally with water jugs on their heads. It’s not a sight that is seen often, and is a great reminder of Italian traditions and culture which followed so many Italians to North America. I talk a lot about food and culture here and song is a big part of Italian life too. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Coro Italia:

A few more pictures from the picnic after the jump…


By |20/07/2013|Culture|0 Comments

Guest Post: Celebrating my family’s 50 years in Canada / Cinquanta Anni nel Canada

 celebrating 50 years in CanadaToday we welcome a guest writer, Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza, who, in honour of Italian Heritage Month, brings us the great story of her family’s celebration of 50 years in Canada. Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza was born and raised in Montreal and is currently a film studies student at Concordia University. An aspiring writer, you can follow her on twitter @CassDM.

As I was perusing twitter late at night, as I often do when sleep evades me, I came across the fact that June is the start of Italian Heritage Month in Ontario. Being from Montreal and a proud hyphenated Canadian-Italian, I immediately grew nostalgic and then envious, as Montreal doesn’t have such a month but a week in August, Semaine Italienne de Montréal, instead. As great and as much fun as the week is, I can only imagine how much fun an entire month must be.

While I was reading up on different events taking place in Ontario (and becoming increasingly jealous!) I realized that I had my own special Italian heritage event that took place in June. This past Sunday, June 2nd, 2013, my father’s side of the family celebrated 50 years in Canada, while my mother’s side is close to celebrating 43 years in Canada. My mother and her immediate family immigrated to Montreal in 1970 from Silvi Marina in Pescara, Abruzzo, while my father, and subsequently his whole family and a good chunk of his village of Cattolica Eraclea in Agrigento Sicily, immigrated to Canada in 1963.

In the past fifty years my family has come to adopt Canada as our own home and native land while maintaining a strong connection to our heritage, roots, and culture. So, as per my Nonno’s wish, a celebration was in order for this milestone.


By |05/06/2013|Culture|3 Comments

June is Italian Heritage Month – come out to the festa!

From the Windsor Star, 2012

Happy Italian Heritage Month! (I just love that photo above from the Windsor Star from last year’s celebrations!)

In 2010, the Province of Ontario declared June Italian Heritage Month. Why? Well, Ontario is home to more than 1,350,000 Italian Canadians. Since the 1880s, the Italian Canadian community has made and continues to make significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of the province. Since that declaration, a festa (party) has ensued for all of June across Ontario, but also across the country.

You can visit for a listing of events, though there may be even more going on. There are multiple heritage day celebrations and Italian flag raising in cities across Ontario and even out in Vancouver. My favourite month-long event is the “Books and Biscotti” literary reading series. After the jump, I’ve made a list of my top celebrations to head out to in June. If you’re not in Ontario, or not in Canada, celebrate with us here at An Italian-Canadian Life. Try a recipe, share a photo, comment on a blog posting and discuss the many things there is to love about Italians and being Italian.


By |01/06/2013|Culture|2 Comments

Celebrating Puglia (and biting into memories…)

massimo bruno

Today I’m serving up a story about focaccia. One day back in 1992 I was jammed into the back of a tiny car, travelling through Italy, from Amantea in Calabria to Monteleone in Puglia. The trip started off scalding hot, the sun beaming down on the beaches and hills of Amantea. When we emerged on the other side in Monteleone I had to pile on every sweater and pair of pants I owned to keep out the chill. While it hadn’t appeared that we had climbed high, we were in the “hills” and the cold weather had already moved in during our trip.

My lovely relatives in Monteleone, who I was meeting for the first time, offered me two plates of food that I will never forget. They were filling, heart warming, and spectacularly simple but luscious. First was a bowl of pasta rapini (my love for it will never die!) and the second was warm focaccia (I called it pizza) from a local bakery. The crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside, dotted with roasted cherry tomatoes creation was heavenly. Something about it was love at first sight.


By |18/04/2013|Culture|4 Comments

Saint Joseph and the saintly snack called Zeppole

Photo by Kyle Bruggeman, Nebraska News21

(Photo by Kyle Bruggeman, Nebraska News21)

“Naples invented zeppole and all Italians licked their fingers.”  Buon Festa del Papà! It’s Saint Joseph’s Day (San Giuseppe)!

If you live or work anywhere near an Italian community, you may be acutely aware of a wave of cream-filled pastries lining bakery shelves today. This is all in celebration of St. Joseph. In the Catholic religion most saints and holy people have specially designated feast days. Italians are never ones to shy away from a feast – any reason to celebrate with food really – and Saint Joseph/San Giuseppe is a special one because it celebrates the father of Jesus. As such, this day is typically also known as father’s day in Italy (Buon Festa del Papà!). Also, in Italy you typically celebrate the day dedicated to the saint you were named after as well as your birthday. Finally, there’s this crazy delicious pastry assigned to March 19 – fried, cream added and a cherry on top.  So, if you are religious, have a father, are named Joseph or just plain like Italian desserts – today’s the day to celebrate!

The snack of choice today is zeppole. That’s zeppoli if you are from the south of Italy and zeppola for the singular form. Today’s zeppole (as that word is applied to a few different types and shapes of fried dough) is a light dough or choux pastry formed in either a circle or a dough-nut shape, cut in half and stuffed with cream or decorated on top with cream and bits of candied cherry. Zeppole are also known by other names, including Bignè di S. Giuseppe and sfinge.

So how do you get from celebrating a Saint to eating fried dough?


By |19/03/2013|Culture, Mangia|0 Comments

Italian-Canadian Life on CHIN Radio – and Losing your parent’s language revisited

29367_310552185718164_313175401_aThis week was an exciting one! On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of co-hosting “Amici”, part of the Wake-Up Italian Style morning show on CHIN Radio here in Toronto. “Amici” is a great venue for younger Italian-Canadians to connect and share how they are active in the community. The format is unique too: the host, Edoardo speaks in Italian and “Amici” co-hosts speak in English. This isn’t unlike how many Italian-Canadian households function now, with some members speaking only Italian and others only English, but everyone understanding what is going on.

A lot of the conversation centred around how I identify within the community (Italian-Canadian or Canadian-Italian?), as well as other second- and third-generation Italians. Also of interest was the discussion of language, and whether language and culture are so intricately tied that if you don’t know how to speak Italian, can you call yourself such. I find these topics fascinating and language, in particular, is often brought up to me as a question given that this blog covers Italian topics, but in English. In honour of that conversation, and to spark more chatting about it, I’ve reposted my article that appeared Panoram Italia last year that was based off of this blog post about language.

First, I’ve included the best bits of the morning show below (minus the music, sorry!).

They also taped parts of the show to feature online, so you can see me as a YouTube star…

You can also check out Part 2 and Part 3 of the videos.

Finally, as promised, the article that starts a lot of conversation…

Losing Your’s Parent’s Language (originally appeared in Panoram Italian Montreal Edition, July 2012)

When Oliviana Mingarelli visits her grandmother in Montreal, she admits she speaks “Frenchtalian”, a combination of French and Italian. For someone who can speak English, Italian, French and Spanish, mixing two languages or more comes easier than one might expect.

“If there was a word I could use for the combination of three languages, like neapolitan ice cream, I would describe our conversations that way too,” says Mingarelli 31, who notes that Spanish mixes with her Italian conversations often as well.


By |02/03/2013|Culture|1 Comment