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Buon Pranzo!

One of the many star dishes in the Italian Sunday lunch constellation.

Pasta al forno, one of the many star dishes in the Italian Sunday lunch constellation.

Buon pranzo!” It’s the universal farewell pleasantry in Puglia during Saturday food shopping. It’s also appropriately shared when you run into friends early on Sunday, maybe at the bar when having a morning espresso. Sometimes it’s accompanied by a question about where you’re going or what you’ll be eating. Taken literally, buon pranzo means “good lunch,” but it’s really meant to acknowledge that Sunday lunch is around the corner, which is always an occasion for a greeting all its own.

The streets are deserted during Sunday lunch in Martina Franca, Italy.

The streets are deserted during Sunday lunch in Martina Franca, Italy.

The buon pranzo greeting is only appropriately linked to Sunday lunch, except when a holiday or feast day falls on another day of the week. In Italy, no feast day is complete without a holiday-sized pranzo, hence the good wishes on these occasions, too. Sunday lunch is still sacrosanct here, more so in the Italian south where traditions die hard. It’s the day of the week when, at 1:00 p.m., all human beings disappear from town streets and a silence falls over the land. They’re all eating, of course, and will be for hours to come.

Sunday lunch in Noci, Italy.

Sunday lunch in Noci, Italy.

Sunday lunch follows a script that has long since been memorized by all participants here. It always involves the family, an all-encompassing concept generous enough to include grandparents, parents-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins and honorary relatives. Sunday lunch is when parents meet their daughters’ boyfriends for the first time. Visiting relatives plan their trips to include Sundays. Whatever else happens during the week, attendance at Sunday lunch is both a solemn requirement and a deeply-felt pleasure.

Italian grandmothers are indisputably in charge at Sunday lunch.

Italian grandmothers are indisputably in charge at Sunday lunch.

The family’s nonna or grandmother is typically the doyenne of the Sunday lunch experience. Ensuring that tradition is observed at these meals is the province of the family member with years of experience to ensure that the meal is prepared come si deve (as one must). And innovation is not appreciated at Sunday lunch. Time-honored dishes served in the appropriate way at the appropriate time of year are always what’s on offer. Their presence is a comfort and a confirmation that amidst the myriad serious issues confronting humanity, all is right with the world for the two or three hours enjoyed at the Sunday lunch table. Stay tuned for a course-by-course Sunday lunch playbook in upcoming posts . .

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a wonderful tradition. We try but have a hard time being so consistent. I think you should submit your blog to travel magazines.

    January 31, 2013
    • Hi, Lori–You are lovely to give such terrific encouragement. I am delighted that you like the blog and that you are finding time to check it out. And as for trying to maintain a Sunday lunch tradition, it’s a noble effort in a culture that doesn’t necessary reward the gesture. We tried with our three children, too, and I think that trying counts for a lot. Ours are much older than yours and they are still pretty connected to spending serious time around the table with friends and family. Hope you’re all well. You should come and visit in Puglia!

      February 1, 2013
  2. Hi Catherine,
    It’s true that the effort still counts. We mostly eat scratch cooking together every night, but it doesn’t meet the romantic Sunday dinner you describe.
    I hope someday Justin and I, and hopefully the kids can visit you. If you are ever in Colorado, you have a bed waiting for you.

    February 14, 2013
    • Hi, Lori–You are so lovely to welcome us to Colorado! We think we’ll be back in the U.S. this spring or early summer, but we’ll probably spend our time in Portland, Oregon and Santa Cruz, CA. Still, I am a huge Colorado fan (I graduated from the University of Denver), so you never know . . . we’d love to visit you guys. And I think that it doesn’t matter so much what you serve as long as your family is together . . . that you cook it yourself is really terrific. Do think about coming to Italy. You would absolutely love it.

      February 15, 2013
      • We’re heading to Santa Cruz June 2nd – 12 to show our kids the area and San Fran. Maybe we’ll cross paths on one end or the other. I’m sure you’ll be busy on your trip with friends, family and business, but try and fit us in if you have a spare moment. You can meet our alpacas, Monty and Pecos.
        We went to Italy for our honeymoon and traveled from Rome, through Tuscany, up to Venice and over to Milan. We still have so much of it we’d like to see. We fantasize about going to cooking school there for a few months when the kids are grown.
        BTW, our daughter’s name is also Catherine, but spelled with a K. We call her Kata (Ka-tah), so we couldn’t spell it with a C or it would be cat-tah. Still, I love the C.

        February 15, 2013
      • Hi, Lori. It’s a real possibility that we will be in Santa Cruz when you are. Let’s stay in touch and see if we might connect. Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet with prior Italy travel, I can’t recommend our region enough. It’s off the beaten path, which makes it so amazing to visit because you aren’t inundated by tourists and tourist sites. Instead, there is extraordinarily beautiful countryside, gorgeous beaches, amazing food and wine and some of the kindest, most generous people we’ve ever met. I wouldn’t live anywhere else in Italy. We’ll get you here yet! And you have excellent taste in girl names. She’ll thank you forever!

        February 21, 2013
      • That would be wonderful, Catherine. You could keep us entertained with all your fabulous stories and insights on the two cultures. I’ll keep you posted as we draw nearer to summer. It would be such a delight to visit Puglia and see your blog come to life. Thank you for the kind offer.

        February 22, 2013

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