Growing up with an Italian grandma was a blessing. Going to grandma’s house always entailed spending time in the kitchen as my grandma cooked up a storm and shoved food down our throats.

It was always something good, and leaving absolutely stuffed was inevitable. I’d always talk to my other friends with Italian grandmas and we could all agree that these were a few things we all know too well.

She lives in the kitchen.

macaroni, pasta, spaghetti, carbohydrate, penne, wheat, tagliatelle
Judy Holtz

My grandma loved to cook and most of my memories of her are in the kitchen. From the second I’d step foot in her house, she’d be whipping up anything and everything my sisters and I would ask for.  

You can never be too full.

It just wasn't an option. Having food left over on your plate was an insult to my grandma, and she couldn’t have any leftovers either—everything had to go. The amount of times I’ve had to eat the last of the calamari or the last meatball because “We just can’t leave one!” is scary.  

Sauce and gravy are not the same thing.

 Gravy has meat in it, sauce does not. Do not mess this up.   

Eating meatballs at restaurants just isn’t the same.

spaghetti, sauce, pasta, tomato
Sam Maniscalco

My grandma spoiled me with the best tasting meatballs in the world, so now meatballs at restaurants all just taste like an insult.  

“Mootz-a-della” is the proper pronunciation.

cream cheese, cheese, bacon, cucumber, prosciutto, cream, asparagus, ham
Marisa Cherichella

I can always hear my grandma saying it with an Italian accent in my head. I can also remember her shudder every time one of her grandchildren “Americanized” it and pronounced it how its spelled.   

Bread and butter go with anything and everything.

No matter what time of day or what’s being served, bread and butter is a perfect side—and you can never have too much of it. 

Pastina is the cure for anything and everything.

Mykala Healy

My grandma swore by it, and no matter what was wrong with me, a nice bowl of pastina guaranteed that I would feel better.  

Garlic is the Key to Life

My grandma used to sit on the porch and salivate at the smell of garlic cooking from the restaurant across the street from our beach house. If that doesn’t say enough, she also taught me that a meal is not complete if it doesn't include garlic.  

Italian pastries are gifts sent down from heaven.

cannoli, cream, chocolate, pastry
Sam Maniscalco

Every holiday and family get together (including St. Pattie’s Day) always includes an assortment of Italian pastries. (My favorite are the cannolis from Sorrento’s Bakery.)

Everything is better fried.

A photo posted by @2betches1plate on

Chicken cutlets, zucchini, meatballs, mozzarella, dough—you name it, we fry it (and it tastes 10x better).  

No excursion is complete without stopping for food.

I remember shopping with my grandma in the mall and hearing “I can’t keep moving unless I eat this instant.” Regardless where we would go, no trip would be complete unless food was involved in some shape or form.  

There are no formal recipes. 

There really is no method to an Italian grandmother's madness. My grandma always would measure by eye and add things based off her own taste buds.

I remember trying to help out and ask how much to put into the mix and she’d always reply “un didets” and let me tell you, I’m just as confused as you are with that one. 

Family dinners are a must. 

Mykala Healy

You've never experienced a true family dinner until you've sat with people squeezed into a space not nearly big enough for a large crowd, everyone screaming over each other while food is being thrown.

Imagine the most dysfunctional family dinner situation, and that's what my family dinners are like. But the food is amazing, plentiful, and you're left stuffed for the next week after.

Jarred sauce is a sin. 

There's no other way around it, Ragu and any other jarred sauces are just not Italian food.  My grandma would tell me all the time, if she ever caught me eating jarred sauce I would be in for it. Stick to the good classic stuff.

While my grandma may have had some crazy rules when it came to food, I am so thankful to have had her around to teach me what real food tastes like, and to have started me on my way to cooking like her. Maybe someday I too will be a crazy Italian grandma with my own traditions.