“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 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 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.
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 . .