Monday, March 26, 2007

Roman Slang 101

I love to speak slang. If only to see the Italian faces when they hear it roll off my lips. Everytime I spout out some slang they usually stare at me in disbelief with a wild grin and giggling. Its as if I somehow cracked the barrier and we're on the same playing field as I am instantly elevated in their eyes. I am no longer the struggling Americana who stumbles among her words and mixes up masculine and feminine. I am no longer the ragazza who can't conjugate worth a darn to save her life. But it's all okay. I mean, come on, I can speak slang.

Do stai andá? is short for "Dove stai andando?" in English it would translate to "where are you going?"
Che stai fá? is short for "Che stai facendo?" or "what are you doing?"
Bella! Sometimes pronounces Bellllllaaaaaaaaaah! Also as in Ah, Bella! This is used a lot as in "Hey guys. What's up?" Literally bella means beautiful.
fico means "cool" or handsome if you are referring to a man. Fico literally means fig.
fica means ""a nice piece of ass" however it can also mean a very vulgar term for a female body part. I think everyone I know that's learned the Italian language has an embarassing story about this one.
ammazza or "wow, great"
Dai! oh come on!
Per carita! Forget about it!
Che pizza! How boring!
Che palle! this is more vulgar and could be translated to What balls!
And let's not forget the oh so loved cazzo which is derived, I think, from cacca and is used all the time everywhere. Not a day goes by that I don't hear "che cazzo fai?" or "che cazzo dici?" or "sti cazzi?" It's really rude and vulgar and I'm sorry if I offend anyone but honestly, I hear it all the time so I'm including it in this post. It's just so Roman.

And then let's get down to the basics. The good ol Roman grunting.
Eh? This is pretty universal for Yeah? And?
Oi! can mean Hey! Hi!
Aiyah! means Ouch!
and Oooooooooh! is my all time favorite that means oh, come on. As in Ooooooooooh! Che dici? translation: Come on, what are you saying?
Just add a few hand signals or at the very least throw your hands wildly around in the air and you've got it. Your speaking Roman slang!


Thursday, March 22, 2007

In the doghouse

Woe is the woman with a sick dog.
Cleaning up doggy throw-up is not nice.
stinky stinky wet stinky yuck.
But someone's gotta do it and the hubby sure ain't lifting a finger. Turns out Otto our dog is fine, nothing serious just a mal di gola (soar throat). The strange thing is though the vet prescribed an antibiotic (for animals) and bisolvin which is a cough syrup for humans. And I bought both of them at a regular ol' farmacia.
It seems to me, if I remember correctly, in the United States we bought medicine for animals directly from the vet, not Duane Reade or Eckerd's pharmacy. People medicine and pet medicine were bought and dealt with in two very different places. And I just can't see a US vet advising to give cough syrup to a dog, but hey, maybe. I guess it probably happens.
Anyhow, the dog is feeling much better and so are we.
Just for the record, our vet here in Rome is super. Better than any vet I've had in the US. She is so helpful and nice and of course gives Otto the best care possible.


Sunday, March 18, 2007


Hai fatto colazione?
The best cornetti in all of Rome is hands down made by a laboratorio in Prati. This place has no name I know of (at least no sign outside to signify who they are) and has been operating for the last century, according to the baker on duty last night. Supposedly they opened in 1917 and have been making the best breakfast treats ever since.
Now here's the catch: they are only open at night when the baking geniuses are in progress. READ: the all-time best fix for late night munchies, fresh popping-hot right out of the oven. There is always a line outside the door with customers patiently waiting to order their craving. Cornetti con marmalata, cornetti con nutella or nocciola, ciocolatto bianco, even la crema, or try a brioche or danese...take your pick.

We went last night to pick up a few for breakfast this morning but ended up stuffing our faces with most of our purchase before we even arrived at home. They are just too good to resist.
So if you have a late night sweet tooth stop by Via Giuseppe Giochino Belli 61. Just look for the small door in between two big restaraunts. You can't miss the sweet air wafting about or the line of Romans waiting out in front.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Those crazy Texans!

As a tribute to my recent trip to Texas, I want to share a special Sunday tradition.
In Austin there is a bar called Jinny's Little Longhorn which has a special night: Chicken Shit Sunday. Every Sunday the tiny (and I'm talking maybe 60meters square) bar is packed with college students, professors, motorcycle enthusiasts, tourists, and a smattering of colorful locals. From about 5pm to the wee hours of the morning they have local bands perform and sell $1.50 long necks (Shiner Bock is a favorite Texas beer with Lone Star coming a close second). The music is pretty country but gives the place a very authentic feel.
Imagine a few slabs of wood constructed as a stage with a woman playing the violin (bluegrass style) a man on bass and another playing the smallest piano I've ever seen in my life. As the woman belts out her lyrics of broken hearts and memories of the past in a deeply southern twang the 3 burly women bartenders are scurrying to open as many bottles of beer they can to appease the crowd. One even cradles 6 bottles in one arm and pops off the tops with a simple flick of her wrist. The various neon signs add to the magic of the night as do the Harley gang members hanging outside and barbequeing hamburgers on the back lawn.

But really the highlight of the night is the raffle or lottery in which blue tickets each with its own handwritten number is sold for two dollars each.
What kind of lottery you may ask? Well, this is a game played three times during the night in which the family pet chicken is placed in a cage and encouraged to poop.
If you look closely in the pictures you can see the floor of the pen is divided into numbers.

Littered with bird seed the chicken happily eats while the crowd cheers her on, coaxing her towards their corresponding raffle ticket number. Once the chicken poops on a number that is the lucky winner and they take home the pot of money from the cost of the raffle tickets. This is the winning number:

Do you see the poop so elegantly highlighted by the wire of the pen? I think it's number 6 but I don't remember correctly after my fill of $1.50 beer.

And that my friends is Chicken Shit Sunday.

*disclaimer: the chicken was in no way harmed or hurt during the night and I can personally vow that she lives in a very large cage in back of Little Jinny's and is treated with the utmost respect and fed very, very well. There is no animal cruelty involved whatsoever.


Friday, March 02, 2007


This store is the bomb.

I finally made it over to Castroni yesterday and it is ficchisimo (so very cool). This specialty store stocks products from all over the world and delicacies that are hard to find in Rome. Everything from tea and coffee to Indian spices like garam masala and tandoori to Mexican spices, chocolate covered oranges and sushi nori, pickled plums, lime leaves and lemongrass for Thai cuisines, not to mention various chutneys, pestos, curries, marmalades. You name it they probably sell it.
I just stood there in the middle of the store with my eyes the size of saucers glazed over and dumbfounded. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to make thai or indian food and I could never find the spices in my local supermarkets. I even smuggled large quantities of black beans, jalepenos and chipolte peppers back from Texas this past January (see photo of my stash below) because these items are very hard to find in Italy.

Okay okay I know that these aren't gourmet items. In fact they are the 99cent version at our local tom thumb. Why did I pay the $75 over-the-weight-limit for my luggage flying back to Rome? Because I didn't know that I could just hop over to Castroni instead of reverting to illegal activities to satisfy my tex-mex cravings.
Castroni isn't cheap. But if you are ever in Rome and craving a tamarind sauce or some Turkish apple tea this is the place to go.

Indirizzo: Via Cola di Rienzo, 196, Rome, 192
also on Via Flaminia near Piazzale Flaminio


Thursday, March 01, 2007


"Cucciolo" in Italian means "puppy" and we have a 6 month old cucciolo now. In fact, he is a cacciatore, or hunting dog.
Needless to say I've been very busy. Between two cats, a new puppy, one husband and my work I have little free time.
But it's all worth it.

This poor little segugio (bloodhound) was found by a friend of ours outside of Rome abandoned on the highway and instantly he won over our hearts. Not the cats' hearts yet but so far there have been no major casualties. We decided to call him Otto, not in the number otto (oht-to, eight in Italian) but as in Ahhtto, the name of kings of Germany, including Otto I, THE founder of the Holy Roman Empire. Well I just like the name with or without the historical significance.
Anyhow, Rome is full of dogs. You thought the unofficial animal was the cat? Well there is no mistaking that dogs are a fierce competitor for that title. At least in my neighborhood. Plus I am learning all about the etiquette of owning a dog. From the social behaviors at the park (most people ask mascio? femina? to determine the sex of the dog. Two male dogs are usually a dangerous mix but a mascio and femina get along quite well at the dog run. In our case I just say cucciolo. Then everyone smiles and coos "che carino!" because a cucciolo is usually accepted by both male and females dogs and everyone loves a puppy). Then there is the social etiquette of the owners. Dogs are really like children in so many ways. And the owners are always the proud parents discussing the various personalities, obscure habits, and funny tidbits of information about their little loved one. Just so you know....I'm warning you now about future posts.

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