Northern Songs G-M


Northern Songs “G”

Gh’è Tante Signorine

(This is the Veronese-Venetian dialect version)

(See also La Bora di Trieste, which has roughly the same tune and chorus.)

Gh’è tante signorine che sül cappello gh’a
La piuma dell’usello, la piuma dell’usello
Gh’è tante signorine che sül cappello gh’a
La piuma dell’usello, ma l’usello non gh’è là! (usello = uccello; “piuma” sounds like

Viva l’amore, l’amore, l’amor che vien che va (3X)
I dise che ‘l mondo el sa ribaltà


Viva l’amore, l’amore, e non amore mai (3X)
E viva l’amore, ma chi la sa fa (or, e chi la sa fa)

Gh’e tanti giuvanotti . . . //same as above//



Se ben che son piccina ghe l’ho come me mamma
La par ‘na barca a vela, la par ‘na barca a vela
Se ben che son piccina ghe l’ho come me mamma
La par ‘na barca a vela con su tutti i marinari


Se ben che son piccino ghe l’ho come me pare
El palo telegrafico, el palo telegrafico
Se ben che son piccino ghe l’ho come me pare
El palo telegrafico, con tutti i fili tachè


Me pare fa el moleta, mi passa el moletin
El mester che fa me pare, el mester che fa me pare
Me pare fa el moleta, mi passa el moletin
El mester che fa me pare e l’ me piase anca a mi


Me pare fa ‘l moleta e mi fo ‘l moletin
Me pare mola in presia, me pare mola in presia
Me pare fa ‘l moleta e mi fo ‘l moletin
Me pare mola in presia e mi molo pian pianin


E un giorno andando in piasa gridai che vuol molar (“piasa” = “piazza”)
Salta fora ‘na ragazza, salta fora ‘na ragazza
E un giorno andando in piasa gridai che vuol molar
Salta fora ‘na ragazza, con la forbese de guza


Me pare fa ‘l moleta e ’l guza le cortele
E mi che son sol fiol, e mi che son sol fiol
Me pare fa ‘l moleta e ’l guza le cortele
E mi che son sol fiol, guzo tutte le putelle


Rough translation:

There are so many young ladies who have on their hat
The feather of a bird , the feather of a bird
There are so many young ladies who have on their hat
The feather of a bird, but they don’t have a bird “there”.

[Note: “Bird” has a history, in both Italian and English, as slang for a penis, as in flipping the bird.]

Long live love, and say that the world is all messed up.

Long live love, and he who knows how to make it.

Next (same pattern as above):
There are so many young men who have the feathers of a bird on their hat,
But they don’t have a bird “there”.


It’s good I have a small one, like my mother
It’s like a sailboat, it’s like a sailboat
It’s good I have a small one, like my mother
It’s like a sailboat, with all the sailors on it.


It’s good that I am little but have, like my father,
A telegraph pole, a telegraph pole
It’s good that I am little but have, like my father,
A telegraph pole, with all the wires attached.


My father works his grinder, I go with a little grinder (knife grinder)
That’s the job my father does, that’s the job my father does.
My father works his grinder, I go with a little grinder
The job my father does is one I also like to do.


My father works his grinder and I work my little one
My father grinds in a hurry, my father grinds in a hurry
My father works his grinder and I work my little one
My father grinds in haste and I grind slowly, slowly


And one day walking in the plaza I shout out, “Who wants grinding?”.
Out jumps a girl, out jumps a girl
And one day walking in the plaza I shout out, “Who wants grinding?”.
Out jumps a girl, with scissors to be sharpened.


My father works his grinder and he sharpens knives
And I who am his son, and I who am his son
My father works his grinder and he sharpens knives
And I who am his son, I sharpen all the girls.


(“There Are So Many Girls”. Like La Bora di Trieste this is a rousing drinking song, in which the singers relate why they take after their mother and father. In heavy “dialect”. Grade: B.)


Gherdëina, Gherdëina

(As sung by Die Ladiner, etc.)

Gherdëina, Gherdëina (pronounced gah-DIE-nah)
D’or stiza ti monc (stiza is pronounced “shtiza”)
Y luna, y luna
Da un al’auter dalonc. (auter = altro, but also = very; dalonc – distant, lontano)

Saslonch y Pic y Cuca
da Bula nchin Mastié
da Plan nfin a Pruca
cialé se n po’ n assé

Gherdëina, Gherdëina
Gra de dut l’ bën (gra = grateful; dut = tutto; bën is pronounced “bon”)
Ulada, ulada
Da nëus medrë nsci gën (gën is pronounced “chen”)

Gherdëina, Gherdëina
De l’oma si rujné
Rejona, rejona
Y no te l desmincé

Saslonch or Saslong = Sassolungo (It.); Langkofel (Ger.), a mountain near Val Gardena;
Baita Cuca = summer hut used by shepherds;
Bula = a region in Val Gardena;
Mastié = name of an Alp;
Pruca, a “comune” (municipality) in South Tyrol, Waidbruck in Ger.,
Ponte Gardena in Ital.

(“Gardena Valley”. Val Gardena (It.) or Gherdëina (in Ladin) is a valley in the Dolomite Alps, in South Tyrol, where the original language was/is Ladin. The last verse is painted on the façade of “La Cësa di Ladins”, which contains the Museum Gherdëina. A beautiful folksong, reminding the listeners not to forget their Ladin tongue. Grade: B+.)



Sale el vecio nel pra vacche
Sale el giovane el va su
El va su per la luminaria
El dis mai di tornar giù Giulietta
Sa sa Ninetta
El dis mai di tornar giù

Rough translation:

The old man went up to the cow pasture
The young man climbed up there
He went up by the illumination
He said he was never coming back down again, Giulietta
There, there, little one
He said he was never coming back down

(“Juliet”. This was one of the songs in particular where I depended on Flavia Colombo to dig out and explain the lyrics, especially the “dialect” words. Grade: B+.)


Giuvu dla Muntagna, I

A Piemontese version, found in Canti popolare del Vecchio Piemonte, ibid.:

I giuvu dla muntagna,
Ch’ a l’han campà ‘n s’le spale
La giaca e la mantlina
A van giré le stale.
A van canté Martina.
L’amur ch’a j’ acumpagna.
“Dörbi, dörbi, vióire,
Ai giuvu d’la muntagna,
L’amur ch’ a j’ acumpagna
Per vui, bele marióire!”

“Cus l’è chi t’ vöi, Martino?
Chi l’elu mai ch’ a ciama?
L’è l’ uselin ‘n sla rama?”
“Sun mi, Martin, madona.
Cun tüti i me camrada,
Ch’ a ven ciamé l’intrada.”
“Cus ‘t hai purtà, Martino?
Cus ‘t l’hai purtà ch’ a vaja?
Vanta paghé la taja,
Per dörbi la purtina.”

“An buchetin at fiure
Cöite ‘n s’la muntagna
Per andusirte ‘l cure:
Le fiure muntanine,
Le fiur ch’ a sun pi fine,
Le bianche stele alpine.
Dörbi, dörbi, marióire,
Chitè ‘t fé penitensa.
Ch’ij mare av dan licensa
At dörbi la purtina.”

Rough translation:

The young men from the mountain
Who had thrown over their shoulders
Their coats and cloaks
Came turning toward the stables,
Came singing for Martin,
The lover who accompanied them.
“Open up, open up, you who are awake,
For the young folk of the mountain.
The lover who accompanies us
Is for you, pretty maiden!”

“ What do you want, Martin?
Who is it who calls?
Is it the bird on the branch?”
“It’s me, mistress,
With all my companions.
I come to ask permission to enter.”
“What have you brought, Martin?
What have you brought with you?
You have to pay a tax
For me to open the door.”

“A little bunch of flowers
Collected in the mountains
To sweeten your heart:
Flowers of the mountains,
The finest flowers,
White edelweiss.
Open up, open up, maidens,
Stop doing penance.
Your mothers allow you
To open the door.

(“The Young Men of the Mountain”, a courting song. The note to the song in the above-cited book says that it is from the area of Canavese, now a part of Turin, and was sung during the “days of the blackbird”, the last three days of January, said to be the severest time of winter. Ungraded, since I haven’t heard the song.)


Gran Dio Del Cielo

O Dio del cielo se fossi una rondinella
O Dio del cielo se fossi una rondinella
Vorrei volare, vorrei volare, vorrei volare in braccia alla mia bella
Vorrei volare, vorrei volare, vorrei volare in braccia alla mia bella

(Same pattern as above; i.e., each line twice:)

Prendi quel secchio e portalo alla fontana         (pail, bucket)
Là c’è il tuo amore, là c’è il tuo amore, là c’è il tuo amore, che alla fontana aspetta

Prendi il fucile e vattane alla frontiera
Là c’è il nemico, là c’è il nemico, là c’è il nemico all frontiera aspetta

Questa è la vita di noi poverin soldati
Vogliam la pace, vogliam la pace, vogliam la pace e non mai più la guerra

Guarda la luna, la luna come cammina
La va sui monti, la va sui monti, la va sui monti e non si stanca mai.

Rough translation:

Oh God in heaven, if I were a swallow
Oh God in heaven, if I were a swallow
I would fly, I would fly, I would fly to the arms of my love.
I would fly, I would fly, I would fly to the arms of my love.

(Same pattern as above; i.e., each line twice:)

Get that bucket and take it to the fountain
Your love is there, your love is there, your love is there, awaiting at the fountain.

Grab your rifle and get to the border.
The enemy is there, the enemy is there, the enemy is there, waiting at the border.

This is the life of us poor soldiers.
We want peace, we want peace, we want peace, and no more war.

Look at the moon, look how it goes.
It goes over the mountains and never gets tired.

(“Great God in Heaven”. Prayers by the poor soldiers, for courage to face the enemy at the border, for peace, and for the wings of a swallow, to fly home to the arms of their loves. Grade: B+.)


Pasta and More

We had pasta once or twice a month. Both my grandmothers usually stuck with (delicious) pasta asciutta, but my mother Gelsie Bertolotti Mazzer was American, so she also served up spaghetti and meatballs and so on. However, being from the north, our staples were polenta and risotto, rather than pasta. Gnocchi and lasagne were for special occasions.


I had the best of two worlds. My mother’s side of the family made Milanese-style risotto, and my father’s side favored a slightly soupier and darker Venetian style. For the Milanese version, I remember several times being sent to the grocery store to buy a tiny red capsule of saffron.

Here are some family recipes.

Today the “purists” will claim that the very definition of risotto means that the rice must first be sautéed. Well, my relatives all came from the heart of the risotto-eating region of Italy. And some of their recipes call for “frying” the rice, and some do not.

I will not repeat this for each recipe, but the broth (or water if you prefer) to be added to the rice in the cooking process should already be hot, simmering on a back burner.

Also, of course the amounts of ingredients will vary depending on the desired servings. In general, figure 1 ½ cups rice for two people. That should take about 4 small (14 1/2 oz.) cans of chicken broth, or one large can, or the equivalent in water, etc. (To tell the truth, I recommend only chicken broth or maybe good vegetable broth.) From this you can calculate the amounts needed for four or six people, and so on.

Keep adding the broth to the rice a little at a time. My mother left a note saying, “Add broth 11 times in 18 minutes.” That seems a bit complicated, but you get the idea. This is one dish that the cook should keep tasting as you go along so you can tell when the rice is just how you like it.

Ferno-style (Lombard) Risotto

Ingredients (for two):

Small amount of salt pork
Small amount of butter
Small onion, chopped up fine
1 ½ cup rice (everyone now says “arborio”, but experiment with other varieties)
4 small cans of chicken broth (or the equivalent in homemade broth)
¼ glass of white wine
Pinch of saffron
Grated cheese to taste


Sauté the chopped onion in the salt pork and butter. Add the rice and saffron and sauté that a bit more. Then add the wine. Start adding the broth a little at a time, as noted above, stirring constantly. When the liquid in the pot seems almost consumed, add more broth. Cooking will be from 20-30 minutes, depending on how hot your stove gets and how soft you like the rice. Add some grated cheese about 5 minutes before the dish is done.

The finished risotto can be a little soupy or a little dry, depending on how you like it. But this Milanese version usually is served a bit on the dry side.

Dried mushrooms and/or very finely chopped up chicken giblets can be added (as in the other versions below). If so, add them while sautéing, for about 1 minute, before sautéing the rice. However, adding these ingredients will affect the golden color of the rice from the saffron.


Risotto Pordenone-style

As noted above, the quantities of ingredients will depend on the desired servings. Use the quantities from the sample above here as well, for two servings.


Chicken giblets, cut into small pieces
Dried mushrooms (optional)
1 onion, diced
3 tbsp. finely-chopped parsley
Chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese


Sauté the onion in the butter until golden brown. Add the giblets (and mushrooms if using them) and sauté for a few more minutes. Then add some broth and cook (simmer) the giblets for about 1 ½ hours. A few minutes before the end, add the parsley.

When done, remove from the pot and set aside. Sauté the rice (adding more butter if needed) for a few minutes. Re-add the cooked giblets. Then start the process of adding the hot broth to the rice, a little at a time, and stirring constantly, until the rice is done as desired.

Serve with grated cheese if desired.


Nona Caterina Bellese’s Treviso-Style Risotto


1 onion, diced
3 tbsp. finely-chopped parsley
Chicken thighs
Chicken broth
½ glass white or red wine


Dissolve a small pat of butter in the pot. Sauté the onion and the parsley until the onion is transparent. Brown the chicken thighs. Then add the wine and enough broth to cover the chicken. Cook for about ¾ hour, then remove the chicken and liquid to a covered dish and keep that warm. Add the rice and cook by adding hot broth a little at a time until it is almost all absorbed each time. Five minutes before the rice is done add some grated cheese and then the chicken, to re-heat it. Remove chicken skins before serving.


Northern Songs “I”

Io Parto per l’America

      (late 1800s)

Nord Italia

Io parto per l’America, parto sul bastimento
Io parto e son contento di non vederti più

(repeat last line each time)

Quando sarai partito ti troverai pentito
Ti troverai pentito d’avermi abbandonà

Quando sarò in America, sposo un’americana
Addio a Angiolina, che non vederti più      (or, La bella italiana, la lascio in

L’anel che tu mi hai dato, l’ho messo sotto i piedi
O bello se non credi, te lo farò veder

O donna sei volubile, O donna senza cuore        (fickle)
Tu mi giurasti amore, con grande falsità        (promised)

O dammi le mie lettere, O dammi il mio retratto        (portrait)
L’amor con te vigliacco, non lo farò mai più         (dastardly)

Io parto per l’America, l’America lontana
Mia bella istriana, non ti vedrò mai più

Io parto per l’America, col lungo bastimento
Parto col cuor contento, per non vederti più

Ma prima di partire, faro un giro in piazza
Se ce qualche ragazza che piangera per me

Se piangeran le belle, se piangeran le brute,
Poi piangerano tutte, poi piangero anche mi

Non sono americano, il mio cuore resta a casa
Io sono istriano, in Istria tornerò.

Rough Translation:

I’m going to America, I’m going on a ship
I’m going and will be happy not to see you any more

(repeat last line each time)

You’ll regret it when I’m gone
You’ll be sorry that you left me

When I’m in America I’ll marry an American
Goodbye to Angiolina, I won’t be seeing you any more

(or, I’m leaving the pretty Italian girl behind)

The ring that you gave me, I’m stepping on it
My dear, if you don’t believe it, I’ll show you

Oh woman, you are fickle, oh heartless woman
You swore love to me, with great falsehood

Oh give me back my letters, return my portrait
I’ll never love you again, you sneak

I’m going to America, far-off America
I won’t see you again, my lovely Istrian girl

I’m going to America, on a big ship
I’m going with a happy heart, not to see you anymore

But before I leave I want to take a stroll around the piazza
To see if there is some girl who will cry for me.

The pretty ones are crying, the ugly ones are crying
Then they all cry, and I do, too

I’m not an American, my heart remains at home
I am Istrian and will return to Istria.

(“I Am Leaving for America”. When I get to the US I’m going to marry an Americana. So, goodbye to you, Angiolina. You have been fickle, so I step on the ring that you gave me. If you don’t believe me, take a look. Etc. This all seems tongue-in-cheek, or pretended anger, since the last verse – and others not included here – makes clear that the emigrant’s heart remains back home. Grade: B+.)



Southern Italians called the northerners “mangiapolenta”. I plead guilty as charged.
The ribbing comes from all directions. My wife Wendy Tiefenbacher’s relatives from the village of Tiefenbach in Austria (very near Cadore) told us that they, too, make polenta – – and feed it to the cows.

Both sides of my family (and many of our neighbors) had the tradition of making polenta the old-fashioned way, in a big iron or copper pot over a wood fire, stirring it with a strong stick (bastone), the handle end round and the stirring end triangular. (Ours was made by my father.) The kids took turns helping to stir, but most of the work was done by our grandmothers, who were the judges of when the polenta was done – – for one thing, the polenta had to start to come off the sides of the pot when stirred, but there were other signs, indiscernible to me. On special occasions, the experts (all the old folks) gathered around the fire and exchanged opinions about when the polenta was ready.

Today there is not much occasion or time for a wood fire. If you buy instant polenta, follow the directions. If you buy cornmeal, our family always uses the coarse variety (Goya coarse cornmeal was recommended by the polenta expert Ida Aspesi). And we always use yellow cornmeal, although I suppose that white might be possible. We have even used coarse cornmeal purchased right from the mill at Mount Vernon. The folks there told us that George Washington used to enjoy his hoecakes made with that meal. I’ll bet he would have liked some nice polenta with rabbit stew once in a while, too.

Sometimes nowadays I cheat. Instead of just cornmeal, water and salt, while the polenta is being cooked I stir in a little bit of pepper, milk, grated cheese, etc. I suppose that if too much is added, the result will be some sort of breakfast gruel rather than true polenta, but I am afraid that if I just make it with plain cornmeal I do not have the experience to make it as delicious as I remember it made by the old pros.

If you make polenta the old-fashioned way, once the polenta is poured out of the pot there will be a crust of polenta stuck to the inside of the pot. Don’t take the pot to the sink yet – – those chips of crust are delicious treats.

Cooked polenta can be poured into a bowl, or just left in the pot, with individual servings scooped out with a spoon or even an ice cream scoop. But our family makes it a bit less watery. After it sets a bit, it can be poured out onto a flat board (use the table, in a pinch). The polenta is then cut by sliding a string under it and lopping off slices of the desired thickness by pulling up the ends of the string. I am told that dental floss works fine for the slicing (unused, please – this is not the time to re-cycle). Or, after the pot has been inverted and the polenta has been transferred to the board let the polenta cool a bit and then just slice it with a knife.

Here are some basic cooking tips for polenta:

My mother’s proportions for various servings are as follows.

For 2 servings: 7 cups of water, 2 cups of cornmeal, 1 ¾ tbs. salt

For 4 servings: 11 cups of water, 3 cups of cornmeal, 2 ¼ tbs. salt

For 6 servings: 14 ½ cups of water, 4 cups of cornmeal, 2 ¾ tbs. salt

For a very large polenta: 21 cups of water, 6 cups of cornmeal, 3 ¼ tbs. salt

Bring the water to a boil and add the salt. Slowly pour the cornmeal into the water, stirring constantly. The polenta will be done when a crust is formed on the sides of the pot and the rest of the cornmeal separates from the sides when stirred. Depending on the heat source, this should take about ¾ hr. to 1 hour. (That is why the instant variety is popular.)

Tip: If the polenta is becoming too thick before it is fully cooked, add a little more boiling water or milk, keep stirring and hope for the best.

Freshly-cooked polenta is served with stew, meat, sausages, chicken and so on. Some recipes follow. But when there is leftover polenta, cold slices can be put in the oven with slices of gorgonzola or other favored cheese on top, until they are warmed and the cheese starts to melt a bit.

Chicken & Sausage Stew (for polenta, etc.)


Chicken thighs or other parts
1 medium or large chopped onion
Parsley, chopped fine (I like a lot of it)
A few tbs. of tomato paste, or a few canned tomatoes (or the equivalent fresh ones)
½ cup red or white wine
Salt & pepper to taste


Brown the sausage in a heavy pot over low or medium heat. Keep turning the sausage or it will stick to the pot and break into pieces. When the sausage is browned all over, remove it and set it aside in a bowl. Then brown the chicken in the fat from the sausage. Return the sausage to the pot and add the chopped onion. Cook until the onion is lemon color. Add the parsley.

Cover with enough water to cover the stew. Add more water if needed. Add salt and pepper as desired. Then dissolve the tomato paste (or add the tomatoes) into the stew. Use more if desired, although in our family we just did this for a bit of color, not for a tomato-y sauce. Last, add the wine.

Cook with a cover until the meat is almost done. Remove the cover and let the stew simmer until it thickens. Check with a fork to see when the chicken and sausages are done (no red color). Cooking should take 1 to 1 ½ hours.


Tocio (sauce from the Veneto region)

When sitting down to a polenta dinner, my great uncle John Bellese always said in his Trevisan (Venetian) dialect, “Tocio, mette in bocio”. (He also always called mortadella “mortacavallo”, and was scolded by my grandmother for it.)

Note that this is a brown sauce. There are no tomatoes in it.


2 lbs. beef and/or veal cubes (can add or substitute chicken parts)
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2-3 tbs. parsley, chopped fine
3 tbs. olive oil
3 tbs. butter
2-3 fresh sage leaves, or 1 tb. dried sage
½ cup white wine
Salt & pepper to taste
Enough water (or chicken broth, if desired) to cover the meat


Sauté the onion, celery and carrots in the oil and butter a few minutes until the onion is golden brown. Add the meat and brown the cubes (and chicken parts, if used). Then add the parsley. Pour in enough water (or chicken broth) to cover the meat. Add the sage, salt and pepper, as desired. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the meat is done, probably in about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Add the wine about 10-15 minutes before the stew is done.

If the tocio seems too thin, in the last half hour thicken it with some flour. (First, stir the flour into a small amount of cold water before adding it to the stew.)

Of course, if you insist, you can always add some tomato paste or tomatoes to this stew, as well as other herbs and spices as desired.


Northern Songs “L”

La Vien Giù de le Montagne

(Trentino, Vai di Sole, arrangement A. Pedrotti)

La vien giù
La vien giù de le montagne
Con le se
Con le sèce su le spale        (bucket, shoulder)
E la gira
Par ste contrade
La ghe dise,
la ghe dise che l’è bon.

pachetìn de ciocolata
metaremo in raminèta           (copper pot)
in tuta furia
in fretta in fretta
tu prepari
tu prepari un bon cafè.

La va cà
La va casa de la mama
E le tu
E le tuta spetinata             (disheveled)
Figlia mia
Dove sei stata
Te si tuta
Te si tuta spetina.

Mi son sta
Mi son stata a l’osteria
E a be
E a bevare de chel bianco
E col mio
Moreto a fianco
Se parlava,
se parlava de l’amor

Rough translation:

(Only the lines with complete words and phrases are translated.)

She came down from the mountains
With her bucket on her shoulder
And she walked around these neighborhoods
Saying that it was fine.

A little pack of cocoa
Let’s put it in the pot
And quickly, quickly
You’ll make a good pot of coffee

She went to the house of her mother
And was totally disheveled
My daughter, where have you been?
You’re such a mess.

I was at the inn
And was drinking that good white wine
With my boyfriend beside me,
Speaking of love

(“She Comes Down From the Mountain”. A humorous novelty song. Grade: C+.)


L’è ‘Rivà

      (Xe Rivada Una Bela Biondina; é Arrivà)

Coro Val Padana version:

L’è rivaà (bum) l’è rivaà (bum bum bum)
L’è rivada la bella biondina
Con patate, con fagioli, l’insalata la ricciolina
Tarata tarata ta

Se con la paglia se fare i cappelli
Co’ gli occhi belli l’amore se fa        (or, ?? co’ gli gioli belli = joy ??)

Se con i sassi se fare palazzi        (pronounced as palassi)
Col bei ragazzi l’amore se fa


Se con la paglia se fare i cappelli
Col giovani belli l’amore se fa

Se con el beve se far i bicchieri
Col muschetelli l’amore se fa.


Next, Enzo version:

E con la paglia si fanno i cappelli
Col gli occhi belli l’amore si fa

L’è rivà, l’è rivada la ?? carmedina??        (?? carnedina?? cara biondina ??)
Con patate, con fagioli, l’insalata la ricciolina

E con i sassi si fanno palazzi        (pronounced as palassi)
Col gli occhi bassi l’amore si fa

(Repeat verse lines, followed by the chorus, each time)

Col le ragazze ?? si vuole maniera ??)
Con le carezze l’amore si fa

Con le più belle, l’amore più bella
Al chiaro di luna l’amore si fa

Next, Trieste version, posted by Socrate on

Xe Rivada Una Bela Biondina

Xe rivà, bum
Xe ‘rivada una bela biondina
Con patate, con fagioli
L’insalata la ricciolina
Ohilà, bela la xe

E con el fero
Se fa i vapori
Con i sciatori
L’amore si fa.

Verses (entitled “é Arrivà”) found on

È arrivà Bum!
È arrivà Bum!
È arrivata una bella biondina
Cun patate e cun fagioli
E l’insalata alla ricciolina
Ina, ina

E con la paia se fan i cappelli
Coi giovani belli l’amore si fa

Se con i sassi se fan i palassi
Coi bei ragazzi l’amore si fa.

Se con il vetro si fanno i bicchieri
Con i mitraglieri l’amore si fa. (machine-gunners)

Rough translation:

Coro Val Padana version:

She’s arrived (boom!) She’s arrived (boom, boom, boom)
The beautiful blonde has arrived,
With potatoes, with beans, with a salad of greens
Tarata tarata ta

And as hats are made from straw,
Love is made with beautiful eyes

And as palaces are made from stones,
Love is made with the beautiful girls


And as hats are made from straw,
Love is made with the good-looking boys

And as glasses are used for drinks
Love is made with moscatel


Next, Enzo version:

And as hats are made from straw,
Love is made with beautiful eyes.


And as palaces are made from stones,
Love is made with lowered eyes.

(Repeat verse lines, followed by the chorus, each time)

And (? If you want to do it with style with the girls,?)
Love is made with caresses.

With the most beautiful ones, the most beautiful love
Love is made by the light of the moon

Next, Trieste version, posted by Socrate on

(The chorus is similar to the above.)

And as an iron makes steam,
Love is made by the skiers

Other verses (entitled “é Arrivà”) found on

(The chorus is similar to the above, as are some of the verses.)

Additional verse:

And as tumblers are made from glass
Love is made by the machine-gunners.

(“She’s Arrived”. This seems to be a drinking hall song, announcing the arrival of the pretty waitress with plates of potatoes, beans and salad. Some of the verses seem to be based on old sayings, such as, “Palaces are made from stones.” A lively tune. Grade: B+.)


Linda La Va Al Fosso, La

(La Bela La Va al Fosso)

(First, the Fonola Band version:)

La Linda la va al fosso (moat, canal, stream)
Col bigolì, col bigolai, bigolin dai dai
La Linda la va al fosso
La bella bigolì, bigolì, bigulai, bigolin dai dai
La Linda la va al fosso

La guarda un’alpin che passa
Col bigolì, col bigolai, bigolin dai dai
L’alpin ??la?? casca addosso (? stumbled into her ?)
La bella bigolì, bigolì, bigulai bigolin dai dai
E la perduta l’anello

(Then continue, with the same pattern as above:)

E dopo nove mesi
Col bigolì, etc.
È nato un bel bambino
La bella bigolì, etc.
Che l’han ciama Pierino

L’han messo a far l’Alpino
Col bigolì, etc.
E l’han mandà sul Grappa
La bella bigolì, etc.
L’han mess’ ***** pattuglia (They made him go on patrol.)

(next, lyrics found on

La Linda la va al fosso
E l’alpin ghe salta addosso
E le la perd l’anello
Baciando l’alpino bello

Ohi bigulì, ohi bigulì dai dai,
La bella bigulì, bigulì dai dai

E dopo nove mesi
È nato un bel bambino
Che l’han ciamà Pierino
L’han messo a far l’alpino


E l’han mandà in pattuglia
Lassù sul Monte Grappa
L’han fatto poi prigioniero
L’han preso i bavaresi (preso = seized)


E l’han mandà in Germania
L’han messo a far la birra
L’alpin tutta la bevuta
E l’han nen ciapà la ciuca. (la ciuca = she-ass; drunk)

Next, a Milanese version (La Bela La Va al Fosso) with a slightly different melody. You can see this sung by the group I Girasoli on YouTube and by the folksinger Orietta Berti:

La bela la va al fosso
Ravenei, remulass, barbabietul e spinass (or, remolaz)
Tre palanche al mass
La bela la va al fosso
Al fosso a resentar
E al fosso a resentar

(same patttern below)

Intant che la resenta
A ghè casca l’anel
Oh, a ghè casca l’anel

Alor si mise a piangere
Che la perdü l’anel
Sì, che la perdü l’anel

La svalsa gli occhi al cielo
E la vide ‘l ciel seren
E la vide ‘l ciel seren

La svasa gli occhi all’onda
La vide un pescator
E la vide un pescator

E quand l’avrai pescato
Un regalo ti farò
Un regalo ti farò

Andrem lassù sui monti
Sui monti a far l’amor
E sui monti a far l’amor

Rough translation:

(First, the Fonola Band version:)

Linda went to the moat.

(Note: “col bigolì” etc. seem to be singing syllables, but “bigolì” can mean “spaghetti” in Venetian.)

She saw an Alpine soldier passing by.
He stumbled into her,
And she lost her ring.

And after nine months
A beautiful baby was born,
And they called him Petey.

They made him become an Alpine soldier.
They sent him to Mt. Grappa
And made him go on patrol.

(next, lyrics found on

Linda went to the moat.
An Alpine soldier jumped out
And she lost her ring,
Kissing the handsome soldier.

And after nine months
A beautiful baby was born.
They called him Petey
And made him an Alpine soldier.

They made him go out on patrol
Up there on Mount Grappa.
They then made him a prisoner
And the Bavarians took him.

They sent him to Germany
And made him make beer
The Alpine soldier drank it all
And they couldn’t catch the drunkard.

Translation of the version in Milanese:

The girl goes to the stream,
[radishes, turnips, beets and spinach,
threepenny a bunch]
the girl goes to the stream
to the stream for the washing
and to the stream for the washing.

While she does the washing
[radishes, turnips, beets and spinach,
threepenny a bunch]
while she does the washing
her ring falls into the water
oh, her ring falls into the water.

[i Girasoli verse, rough translation:

Then she started crying
that she lost her ring,
yes, that she lost her ring.]

She turns her eyes up to heaven
[radishes, turnips, beets and spinach,
threepenny a bunch]
she turns her eyes up to heaven
she saw the clear sky
and she saw the clear sky.

She turns her eyes down to the waves
[radishes, turnips, beets and spinach,
threepenny a bunch]
she turns her eyes down to the waves
she saw a fisherman
and she saw a fisherman.

Oh fisherman of the waves
[radishes, turnips, beets and spinach,
threepenny a bunch]
oh fisherman of the waves
please fish my ring
oh, please fish my ring.

And when you have fished it
[radishes, turnips, beets and spinach,
threepenny a bunch]
and when you have fished it
a present I will give you
a present I will give you.

We’ll go up there into the mountains
[radishes, turnips, beets and spinach,
threepenny a bunch]
we’ll go up there into the mountains
into the mountains to make love
and into the mountains to make love.

(“Linda Went to the Moat”. Here there are a variety of verses, but they hint at other, missing ones. My guess is that this is a very old song and that some of the verses here, about a love affair with an Alpine soldier, must be more recent versions. Here, too, is the theme of a lost ring, which is discussed below. Grade: B.)



The best lasagna in our family was made by my aunt, Tosca Bertolotti Disoteo (and, as I vaguely recall from childhood, by my great aunt Maria Bertolotti). I do not have Aunt Tosca’s recipe or secrets, but my mother must have exchanged tips with her sister over the years. No one in the family (immediate family at least) ever made lasagna with béchamel.

Gelsie’s Lasagna


The sauce:

2 tbs. olive oil or butter for sautéing
1-2 lbs. ground beef
1 minced onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp. minced parsley
1/2 can tomato paste
½ can water or wine
1 small can whole tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Note: This sauce also is good with pasta. Add a bit of fresh mint for variety.


Sauté the onion, brown the meat, add the other ingredients and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours

The filling:

½ lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced thin or shredded
½ lb swiss cheese, sliced thin
1 lb. ricotta
4 oz. grated parmesan cheese
3 egg yolks


Beat the egg yolks and 2-3 oz. of the parmesan cheese into the ricotta with an eggbeater. Set the swiss cheese and mozzarella aside until assembly (unless they are already shredded; if so, you might as well stir them into the filling) Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

The noodles:


1 lb. lasagne
5 quarts of water


Put the noodles in boiling water and boil them for 6 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent them from sticking together. Drain, and pour cold water over them immediately, and lay them out to dry on towels.

Assembly and Baking:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Spread a small amount of oil, melted butter or spray on the bottom and sides of the baking dish (a dish long enough for the lasagne, if possible). Then spread a thin layer of sauce (very little) on the bottom of the dish. Then add alternate layers of lasagne, sauce and the ricotta mixture. Continue layering until all ingredients are used, ending with sauce and the remaining grated cheese on top.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 30-4- minutes, or until the mozzarella is melted.


Cover the dish with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes.

After removing it from the oven, always allow the lasagna to sit for 15 minutes before serving. Cut into squares and serve.


The lasagna may be assembled the day before and refrigerated. On the day when it goes into the oven allow about 15 minutes baking time more than the directions above.

Or, the lasagna can be put together and frozen without baking. Take it from the freezer and leave it in the refrigerator for 2 days before baking.

Or (I love it this way) bake the lasagna for 20 minutes at 350 degrees the day before serving. On the day it will be served, bake it for about another ½ hour.

Or, You can bake the lasagna for 30 minutes, allow it to cool and then freeze it. Then, if there is no time to thaw it in the refrigerator as mentioned above, remove it from the freezer, place it in a 350-degree oven, cover it and bake for 1 hour. Then remove the cover and continue baking until it is hot and bubbling, about another hour.


Northern Songs “M”

Mama Mia, Mi Sun Stufa

Mama Mia, Mi Sun Stufa

(In Lombard)

Mama mia, mi sun stufa
O de fà la filerina
Ol cal e el poc a la matina
Ol pruvìn du voeult al dì.

Mama mia, mi sun stufa
Tutt ol dì a fa andà l’aspa
Voglio andare in Bergamasca,
In Bergamasca a lavorar.

El mesté de la filanda
L’è el mesté degli assassini
Poverette quelle figlie
Che son dentro a lavorar.

Siam trattati come cani,
Come cani alla catena
Non è questa la maniera
O di farci lavorar.

Tucc me disen che sun nera,
e l’è el fumm de la caldera
el mio amor me lo diceva
di non far quel brutt mesté. (or, de non far)

Tucc me disen che sun gialda.
L’è ol filur de la filanda.
Quando poi sarò in campagna
Miei color ritornerà.

Rough translation:

Mom I’m fed up
From being a mill girl.
The “shortfall” and the “insufficiency” in the morning,
And the samples twice a day.

Mother, I am so tired
Running the skein-winder all day.
I want to go to Bergamo.
I want to go to Bergamo to work.

Work in the spinning mill
Is the job of murderers
Unfortunate are the poor girls
Who have to work in there.

We are treated like dogs,
Like chained dogs.
This is not the way
To make us work.

Everyone tells me I’m black;
It’s the smoke from the caldron.
My love told me
Not to do that dirty job.

Everyone tells me I’m yellow;
It’s the steam of the spinning mill.
When I get back to the countryside
My colors will come back.

(“Mom, I’m Fed Up”. The lyrics, and sample singing, can be found on several sites, including On that site there are notes about the first verse, concerning the Lombard work terms “cal” and “poc” (or “pocch”), both of which were [are still?] tests of the quantity of the produced yarn, and “pruvin”. “Cal” (the shortfall) occurred when the amount of the waste exceeded the allowed limit. “Poc” (which I translate as “insufficiency”) was when the mill worker, while maintaining the correct proportion of yarn to waste, had produced too little yarn. The “Pruvin” (“sample”, or “little test”) was a check on the quality of the yarn. After a certain number of positive outcomes, the mill worker could earn the job of Maestra or Mistra, with a significant increase in pay.
An early source for this anonymous old folk song was in the book I Canti della Filanda: Vecchie Canzoni delle Filandere Brianzole (“The Songs of the Spinning Mill: Old Songs of the Spinning Mill Women of Brianza”, which is an area of Lombardy between Milan and Lake Como), edited by Giacomo Bollini and Attilio Frescura, published in 1940 by the Dopolavoro of the Province of Milan. As a side note, the Dopolavoro (literally “after work”) was a fascist organization for providing recreation after work hours. I wonder why a fascist organization published such an anti-boss, even socialist, song. I guess it was beyond argument that work in the mills was brutal. As another aside, I have never seen in these folk songs a phrase like, “my face changed color”; it is always “changed colors”, a difference between Italian and English. Grade: B.)



Mamma son tanto felice
Perché ritorno da te
La mia canzone ti dice
che il più belgiorno per me        (or, bel sogno)
Mamma son tanto felice
Vivere lontano, perché?

Mamma solo per te
La mia canzone vola
Mamma sarai con me
Tu non sarai più sola
Quanto ti voglio bene
Queste parole d’amore
Che ti sospira il mio cuore
Forse non s’usano più           (or, s’odono)
Mamma ma la canzone mia
Più bella sei tu
Sei tu, la vita
E per la vita non ti lascio mai più.

Sento la mano tua stanca
Cerca i miei riccioli d’or
Sento e la voce ti manca
La ninna nanna d’allor
Oggi la testa tua bianca
Io voglio stringere al cuor.

Rough translation:

Mama, I am so happy because I have come back to you.
My song tells you that this is the most beautiful day for me.
Mama, I am so happy. Why should I live far away?

Mama, my song soars only for you.
Mama, you will be with me and will no longer be alone.
I love you so much.
These words of love that my heart sighs to you may not be used again.
But mama, my most beautiful song is you.
It’s you, life, and as long as I live I won’t ever leave you.

I feel your tired hands near my golden curls.
I hear in your weakening voice the lullaby of long ago.
Today I want to embrace your white hair.

(“Mama”. If you ever have to summon up tears at a dress rehearsal, this song is what you need. Bring Kleenex. But in fact the pure Italian version is less sentimental than the one sung half in English by New Jersey’s own Lou Monte. His version makes it seem that the mother is dead and the singer hopes to meet her in heaven (especially with church bells tolling in the background). But the Italian words imply that the mother still is alive, and the child promises only not to leave her again while she lives. Nothing about the afterlife. Grade: B+.)


Mamma Mia Dammi Cento Lire

          (All’osteria della Rosa Bianca)

Family group

Mamma mia dammi cento lire
Che in America voglio andar . . . !          (repeat each verse)

Cento lire io te li do
Ma in America no, no, no

I suoi fratelli alla finestra           (or, i parenti)
Mamma mia lassala andar

Vai, vai pure o figlia ingrata
Che in qualcosa succederà

Quando furuno in mezzo al mare          (or, Quan’ fu stata in mezzo al mare)
Il bastimento si sprofondò            (or, il bastimento si l’è fundà)

Pescatore che peschi i pesci
La mia figlia vai tu a pescar

La tua figlia andavo al fondo          (or, l’è anda al fondo)
Mai più al mondo ritornerà

Le parole di ogni mamma sono sempre la verità
Mentre quelle di i parenti sono che m’ingannà

Other versions:

All’osteria della rosa bianca
C’è una figlia da marità

Mamma, presta mi cento lire
Che in America voglio andar

Cento lire e le scarpette             (or, per le scarpette)
Ma in America, non andare

Il mio sangue è rosso e fino
I pesci del mare lo beveran

La mia carne è bianca e pura
La balena la mangierà

I miei capelli son ricci e beli
L’acqua del mare li marcirà            (rot, decompose)

Il consiglio della mia mamma
L’era tutta verità

Mentre quello dei miei fratelli
L’è stà quello che m’ha ingannà.

Le parole dei miei fratelli
Sono quelle che m’àn tradì        (betrayed)

Pena giunti in alto mare          (arrived at distress on the high seas)
Il bastimento si ribaltò

Le parole della mamma
Sono venute la verità

Rough translation:

Mom, give me 100 lira. I want to go to America.

I’ll give you 100 lira, but don’t go to America.

Her siblings at the window said, “Mom, let her go.”

Go, go, then ungrateful daughter, so that you might succeed at something.

When they were in the middle of the sea the ship sank.

Oh fisherman who fishes for fish, go fish out my daughter.

Your daughter has gone to the bottom and will never return to the world.

The words of mothers are always true, while those of the relatives were to trick me.

Other versions:

At the Inn of the White Rose there is a daughter of marriagable age.

Mom, lend me 100 lira. I want to go to America.

100 lira for shoes, but don’t go to America.

My blood is red and refined. The fish of the sea will drink it.

My flesh is white and pure. The whale will eat it.

My hair is curly and beautiful. The water of the sea will rot it.

The advice of my mother was all true.

While that of my siblings deceived me.

The words of my siblings betrayed me.

In the midst of the high seas the ship was in distress.

The words of my mother turned out to be the truth.

(“Mother, Give Me 100 Lire”). The child (in some versions a son, in some a daughter) wants to go to America. The mother begs the child not to go, but eventually gives in, so that the child may make his/her fortune in the new land. The relatives “at the window” urge the mother to give in, but they are acting selfishly. With one child gone from the house, there will be more food and room for the remainder of the family. Sure enough, as the mother foresaw, the ship is lost at sea. The remaining verses tell what happens after that. On Youtube you can see a dance performance enacting the tale in this song. Grade: A.)


Maria Giuana

      (a/k/a Zia Giuana, Magna Giovanna, etc,; see also Quel Momento, which is the same tune)

According to the website, this old Piemontese song was included by Costantino Nigra in a collection of popular songs in 1854, so it obviously goes back long before that. The same song is said to be popular in parts of France. It has many verses.

The Nigra version:

Magna Giuvana l’era ‘n su l’uss/ l’era ‘n su l’uss ch’a n’u’n filava.
J’e’ passa-je sur medichin:- Magna Giuvana, cum ‘a la và-la?
– La mi và-la pa vaire bin, m’è tacà’me tant mal di testa.
– Magna Giuvana, mesceisse ‘l vin, a la matin saria guaria.
– Ma se mi mesceissa ‘l vin, a la matin saria morta.
A l’è morta che mi sarè, sutarè’me ant una crota,
Con la testa suta al butal e la buca sut la spinela.
Tuta la gent ch’a veniran per vin, mantniran la buca fresca.

In standard Italian :

Zia Giovanna era sull’uscio, era sull’uscio che filava.
Ci passò sor medichino – Zia Giovanna, come la va?
– Non mi va molto bene, m’è venuto gran mal di capo.
Zia Giovanna, se mesceste il vino il mattino sareste guarita.
– Ma se io mescessi il vino, il mattino sarei morta.
Morta che sarò, sotterratemi in una cantina,
con la testa sotto la botte e la bocca sotto lo spillo.
Tutta la gente che verrà per vino mi manterrà la bocca fresca.

In the version collected by Eugene Rolland in 1882, “Zia” Giovana (Giuana) had become Maria Giuana.

Another Piemontese version (from

Maria Giuana l’era ‘n sl’üss
l’era ‘n sl’üss che la filava oh
l’era ‘n sl’üss che la filava oh
trulla la la

le pasaie sur Bernardin
“cusa feve Maria Giuana oh
cusa feve Maria Giuana oh”
trulla la la

“Sun trei di che stac nen bin
en fa tantan’t mala la testa oh
en fa tantan’t mala la testa oh
trulla la la

Si beveisi nen tant vin
Mal la testa passeria, oh
Mal la testa passeria, oh
Trulla la la

Standard Italian:

Maria Giovanna era sull’uscio
Era sull’uscio che filava oh
Era sull’uscio che filava oh
Trulla la la

E’ passato signor dottore
Cosa avete Maria Giovanna oh
Cosa avete Maria Giovanna oh
Trulla la la

Son tre giorni che non sto bene
Ho tanto male alla testa oh
Ho tanto male alla testa oh
Trulla la la

Se bevesse meno tano vino
Mal di testa passerebbe oh
Mal di testa passerebbe oh
Trulla la la

Next, the version:

Maria Giuana l’era in s’lüs
l’era in s’lüs ca la filava, oh
l’era in s’lüs ca la filava, oh

(Same pattern:)

A i pasa al so midighin (dutur, dottor)
Cusa i föi Maria Giuana?

L’è tre dì chi stagh nen ben
Mi l’hai sempre mal da testa

Si i bivisi nen tant vin
Mal da testa ad passerìa

Si i bivisa nen tant vin
St’ura chi sarìa già morta

E adess chi möra mi
Vöi ca i cantu sempre ciuca

Buti stupi par cusin,
damigiani par cendeila

E ch’al preivi ca vegna après mi
Vöi ch’al sia ciuch ad barbera, oh
Vöi ch’al canta la Viuleta, oh

Rough translation:

The Nigra version:

Aunt Giovanna was at her doorway, spinning at her doorway.
Her doctor passed by – “Aunt Giovanna, how are you?”
“Not so good. A bad headache has come upon me.”
“If you would water down the wine in the morning you would be healed.”
“But if I had watered down the wine I would be dead in the morning.”

If I die, bury me in a wine cellar,
With my head under a barrel and my mouth under the tap.
Everyone who comes for wine will keep my mouth refreshed.

Another Piemontese version (from

Maria Giovanna was at her doorway, spinning.
Her doctor passed by her.
“How is it going, Maria Giovanna?”
“I haven’t been well for three days. I have such a bad headache.”
“If you didn’t drink so much wine your headache would go away.”

Next, the version:

Basically the same as above, plus:

If I didn’t drink so much wine I would already be dead.

[The rest is in “dialect” that I don’t understand.]

(“Maria Giovanna” [a woman’s name]. This is a Piemontese song (close to a French pronunciation). The doctor passing by asks Maria Giuana (Giovanna, in standard Italian) how she is doing. She says not so good. Her head has been hurting for three days. The doctor says if you didn’t drink so much you’d feel better. She says that if didn’t drink so much she would be dead already. Quel Momento (below) is basically the same song with a different theme. Grade: A.)


Ma Va Là Ti Cuntadin

(In Lombard. Lyrics found on Italian Wikisource)

Ma va là ti cuntadin,
ca t’ laori nott e dì,
a t’ laori dì e nott
per polenta e scigolott.

Ma va là ti cuntadin,
ca t’ si semper sensa vin,
a gh’è l’acqua in abbondansa,
tutt al dì t’ fa mal la pansa.

Cuntadin a la matina
To su ‘l fer e va segar,
e ‘l padron co la sua sciora
va nei campi a passegiar.

Rough translation:

Well, go there, you farmer (peasant)
Who works night and day
You work day and night
For polenta and onions.

Well, go there, you farmer,
You are always without wine.
There’s plenty of water
Your stomach hurts all day.

In the morning the farmer
Picks up the saw and goes to saw,
While the master with his lady
Goes for a walk in the fields.

(“Well, Go There, You Farmer”. This is one reason why so many Italians emigrated in the old days. Grade: B.)


Merlo Ga Perso El Beco, El

El merlo ga perso el beco
Come faralo a cantar      (bis)
El merlo ga perso el beco
Povero merlo mio
Come faralo a cantar!        (or, come taralo?)

El merlo ga perso l’ali
Come faralo a volar      (bis)
El merlo ga perso l’ali
Povero merlo mio
Come faralo a volar!

El merlo ga perso le sate
Come faralo a saltar      (bis)
El merlo ga perso le sate
Povero merlo mio
Come faralo a saltar!

El merlo ga perso el core
Come faralo ad amar      (bis)
El merlo ga perso el beco, l’ali, le sate, el core
Povero merlo mio
Come faralo ad amar!

Rough translation:

The blackbird has lost its beak. How can it sing? [repeat]
The blackbird has lost its beak. My poor little blackbird, how can you sing?

[same pattern below]

The blackbird has lost its wings. How can it fly?

The blackbird has lost its claws. How can it jump?

The blackbird has lost its heart. How can it love?

(“The Blackbird Has Lost Its Beak”. So how can it sing? And how can it love, if it has lost its heart? An old standard. Grade: B+.)


Mia Nonna L’è Vecchierèlla, La

(See also Bella Ciao)

This Lombard song is included because according to Italian Wikisource it is sung to the tune of Bella Ciao.

La mia nonna l’è vecchierèlla
La mi di’ ciò
La mi fa ciò la mi fa ciò ciò ciò
La mi manda a la fontanèlla
Prender l’acqua per il desinar

La fontanèlla non voglio andare
La mi di’ ciò
La mi fa ciò la mi fa ciò ciò ciò
La fontanèlla non voglio andare
Prender l’acqua per il desinar

(same pattern below)

Ti darò cinquanta scudi
Prender l’acqua per il desinar

Cinquanta scudi non voglio andare
Prender l’acqua per il desinar

Rough translation:

My grandmother is an old woman.
She tells me this and that.
She makes me do this and that.
She sends me to the fountain to get water for dinner.

I don’t want to go to the fountain.
She tells me this and that.
She makes me do this and that.
I don’t want to go to the fountain to get water for dinner.

(same pattern below)

I’ll give you fifty cents
To get the water for dinner.

For fifty cents, I don’t want to go
To get the water for dinner.

(“My Grandma is an old woman”. She seems all right, but the singer sounds like a spoiled brat. Won’t go to the fountain to get the water for dinner, even for a reward. Grade: C.)



Mi Ha Detto Mamma

        (Cara Mamma)

Mi ha detto mamma col gli occhi di pianto
Mio caro figlio perchè vuoi soffrire?
Tutti disperi perche l’ami tanto
Ma le sorride vederti morire.

Hai ragione cara mamma ma io l’adoro
Son contento di morire sul [nel] suo bel seno
E se baci hanno anche il veleno
Son contento di morire sul [nel] suo bel seno.

La bianca luna che appare su i monti
Risvegli i cuori di tutti gli amanti
Se io potesse veder il mio amore
Sara per me una grande fortuna

((repeat chorus – – Hai ragione . . . ))

Rough translation:

Mama told me with her eyes full of tears,
My dear son, why do you want to suffer?
All is in despair because you love her so much,
But she would smile to see you die.

You are right, dear mother, but I adore her.
I am content to die on that beautiful bosom.
And even if her kisses were poisonous,
I am content to die on that beautiful bosom.

The white moon that appears over the mountains
Awakens the hearts of all lovers.
If I could see my love
I would be so fortunate.

(“Mama Has Told Me”. She told me that that woman is nothing but trouble. But I adore her, Mama. Even if her kisses are poison I will die content on that beautiful breast. Grade: B+.)


Mio Galleto, Il

Il mio galleto si g’ha una bella coda
Tutte le belle figlie lu’ghe la prova        (or, tutte le donne)
Galleto qua, galleto là          (or, galleto qui)
Il mio galleto l’è mai a cà

(or: il mio galleto non cammina più)

Muoio, muoio per te mio galleto
Muoio, solo per te morirò

Il mio galleto si g’ha un bel osso
Tutte le donne ghe salta adosso         (on it)
(repeat galleto qua, galleto là, etc.)

Il mio galleto, si g’ha le belle ale
Tutte le donne ghe palpe i bale         (touch it)

Il mio galleto si g’ha una bella cresta
Tutte le donne ghe salta in testa

Il mio galleto si g’ha le belle zampe         (leg, talon, claw)
Tutte le donne ghe cava i mudande         (take off, remove; moulting)


Il mio galetto ha un bel beco


Il mio galleto con la sua cresta
Tutte le donne ci faro la testa

Rough translation:

My little rooster has a beautiful tail.
All the ladies want to test him out.
Rooster here, rooster there,
My little rooster is never at home.

(Or: My little rooster, don’t step out anymore.)

You kill me, my little rooster,
You’re gonna kill me.

My little rooster has a good bone.
All the ladies want to jump on it.
(repeat rooster here, rooster there, etc.)

My little rooster has beautiful wings.
All the ladies touch them and dance.

My little rooster has a handsome comb.
All the ladies jump on his head.

My little rooster has good claws.
All the ladies are stripping and moulting.


My little rooster has a handsome beak.


My little rooster with his comb.
All the ladies will do the head.

(“My Little Rooster”. The chickens can’t keep their hands (wings?) off a studly rooster. Grade: B+.)


Monachella, La

È la figlia di un cinese s’è fatta monaca
È fatta monaca per un dolor         (or, S’è fatta)
Per un capriccio del suo primo amor

(in each verse the last two lines are repeated)

òttò tre mesi che è la monaca la monachella
Scrisse una lettera al suo papà
Che l’è malata e a casa vuol tornar

D’esser monaca s’e un po stancata
E allora scrive una lettera a suo papa
Che l’à malata e a casa vuol tornar)

Suo papà gliene scrive un’altra ancor più bella        (or, Il papa; scrisse)
Se sei malata tu dovrai soffrir
In quel convento tu dovrai morir

Io maledico la prima pietra di quel convento
E l’ingeniere che lo disegnò
Ed il muratore che lo fabbricò

Io maledico papà e mamma e le sorelle
Son state quelle che me l’han insegna
Ad ascoltare solo i preti e frà.

Rough translation:

The daughter of a Chinese man was made a nun.
She became a nun because of a regrettable act,
For a whim of her first love.

(in each verse the last two lines are repeated)

When three months had passed after becoming a nun
The little nun wrote a letter to her father,
Saying that she felt ill and wanted to return home.

Being a nun was a little tiring,
So then she wrote a letter to her father,
Saying that she felt ill and wanted to return home.)

Her father wrote a letter back that was even more beautiful,
Saying that if you feel ill you should suffer,
You should die in that convent.

I curse the foundation stone of that convent,
And the engineer who designed it,
And the bricklayer who built it.

I curse Dad and Mom and the Sisters,
They being the ones who have taught me
To listen only to the priests and friars.

(“The Little Nun”. This is similar to La Domenica Andando alla Messa, above (an entirely different song, though). Here, a father puts his daughter in a nunnery, all due to a “caprice of her first love”. She curses her parents, the nuns, the engineer who designed the place, the bricklayer who built it, etc. I get the feeling that the nuns will be glad to see her return home. Grade: A-.)


Monferrina, La

(Munferina, La)

This version of the lyrics (in Piemontese) for this famous old dance from the Piedmont region was found in A local chorus singing just the refrain can be heard on an Alan Lomax collection of Piemontese songs.

O cià cià Maria Catlina
Dummie dummie na si assià
Oh si si ch’ja la daria
L’ai lassà l’siass s cà.
Ris e coi e tajarin
Guarda un po’ cum’ a balo bin.
Balo mei le pisanote
Che le tote de Turin.

O bundì, bundì, bundì
‘ncura na volta, ‘ncura na volta
O bundì, bundì, bundì
‘ncura na volta e peui papì
‘ncura na volta sota la porta
‘ncura na vira sota la riva
O bundì, bundì, bundì
‘ncura na volta e peui papì

Cosa’t fas Maria Catlina
Li setà ‘n sal taburet.
Da na man la vetalina
E da l’autra ‘l fassulet.
Piè ‘na gioia che vi pias,
dei ‘na man tirela an bras.
La curenta l’è pi bela
E poi tràllarillalà.


Per dansè la Munferina
L’è rivais n’ufizial.
L’à ciapà Maria Catlina
L’à portala ‘nmes al bal.
Fate in là ti paisan
Passo mi col guard’enfant.
Fame mach un ben inchin
E ti fasso un bel basin.


In standard Italian:

O ciao, ciao Maria Caterina
Diamole diamole una setacciata
O si si che gliela darei
Ma ho lasciato il setaccio a casa.
Riso, cavolo e tagliatelle
Guarda solo come ballano bene
Ballano meglio le ragazze di paese
Che le signorine di Torino


O buondì, buondì, buondì
Ancora una volta, ancora una volta
O buondì, buondì, buondì
Ancora una volta e poi basta
Ancora una volta sotto la porta
Ancora un giro giù al fiume
O buondì, buondì, buondì
Ancora una volta e poi basta

Cosa fai Maria Caterina
Li seduta sullo sgabello
Con il ventaglio in una mano
E nell’altra il fazzoletto
Prendete una gioia che vi piace
Tiratevela in braccio con una mano
La curenta è più bella
E poi tràllarillalà.


Per danzare la monferrina
È arrivato un ufficiale
Ha preso Maria Caterina
L’ha trascinata in mezzo al ballo.
Spostati tu paesano
Passo io con il garde’enfant.
Fammi solo un bell’inchino
Ed io ti faccio un bel bacino.


Rough translation:

Oh hello, hello, Mary Catherine.
Give her, give her a screening.
I would do it,
But I left the sieve at home.
Rice, cabbage and noodles;
Just look how they dance so well.
The country girls dance better
Than the young ladies of Turin.

Oh good day, good day, good day
One more time, one more time
Oh good day, good day, good day
One more time and that’s enough.
Once more under the door,
One more ride down the river.
Oh good day, good day, good day
One more time and that’s enough.

What are you doing, Mary Catherine,
Sitting there on the stool?
With a fan in one hand
And in the other a handkerchief.
Have a good time,
Take me by the arm.
The curenta [an Alpine dance] is more beautiful
And then tra la la la la.


To dance the Monferrina
An official has arrived.
He took Mary Catherine
And dragged her into the middle of the dance.
“Move, country girl
I am in step with the nanny.”
“Just give me a nice bow
And I’ll give you a nice little kiss.”

(“The Monferrina”, is the name of a traditional folkdance, taking its name from the Monferrato region in Piedmont. While in the local “dialect” it is called “La Munferina”, the dance has spread to other areas where, according to, it is known as “manfrina”, “munfrina” and so on. You can see versions on YouTube. The puns and rhymes made it especially hard to give this a good translation. Grade: B.)


Montanara, La

(The lyrics are available from many sources, and there are many foreign-language versions. I compiled the English version here from several sources, including, making some changes myself.)

Lassù per le montagne
Tra boschi e valli d’or
Fra l’aspre rupi echeggia
Un cantico d’amor.


“La montanara, ohé!”
Si sente cantare
“cantiam la montanara
e chi non la sa?”


Lassù sui monti
Dai rivi d’argento
Una capanna
Cosparsa di fior
Era la piccola, dolce dimora
Di Soreghina.
La figlia del sol.

In English:

Up there in the mountains
Among woods and valleys of gold
Among the rugged cliffs there echoes
A canticle of love.

“La Montanara, Ohé!”
You can hear it sung.
We sing the Montanara
And who does not know it?

Up there in the mountains
Among banks of silver
A hut covered with flowers
It was the sweet little dwelling-place
Of Soreghina.
The daughter of the Sun.

(The title usually is translated as “The Song of the Mountains” but “montanara” can also mean a female mountaineer, so maybe the title could be “the girl of the mountains” or something like that. This song is often called “the hymn of the Alps”, and is also popular in German-speaking alpine regions, in German. Friends and relatives from northern Italy were very surprised that I did not include La Montanara in this compilation. I left it out since there is a chance that it may be under copyright. But now I doubt that, so here it is at last. Antonio “Toni” Ortelli, a mountaineer born in 1904, composed the song in the 1920s while still in college (or, at least, arranged it at that time for choir, with addiitional chorale arrangement by Luigi Pigarelli, in particlar for the famous Coro SAT). Ortelli then went on to live a long life, dying only in 2000. Thus under the current copyright duration of “life plus 70”, theoretically the song could be copyrighted until 2070. I tried to look into Italian/European copyright law to see if works from the 1920s are covered by the “life plus 70” rule, and my conclusion is that they are not, but I could not find a definite answer. More importantly, did Ortelli really “compose” the song? Most sources I have seen refer to La Montanara as a far older folksong, and state that Ortelli heard it while hiking in the Alps. One account says that he heard the song sung by a shepherd and that he later transcribed the words and music. Others say that he first heard it sung by a maid, or by a servant in an inn, or by the inn-keeper. Since most older Italians I have talked to consider this an old folksong, I am going with that notion for now. The song became even more famous when it was featured in the 1949 British movie The Glass Mountain. Soreghina, the daughter of the Sun, is “a character in an ancient Dolomite legend”. My amateur theory is that the word could be derived from “sol” plus “regina”. Is that too far-out? La Montanara is not my personal favorite, but since it is considered the hymn of the Alps I have to give it Grade: A.)


Monte Sabatino

            (Quelli Belli)

Mia cara madre io parto ?? la dovia??
Ti ha domando i figli guardar
?? Io me devando in mezzo quelli belli ??
??Mi ho ci diranno no ci vedrè non più ??
(repeat the last two lines)

Appena giunti sul Monte Sabatino          (as soon as arrived on)
?? Una patroche me vede arrivar ??
?? Danda la salvo la maione tencana ??
A dilitura un marcielo di lento ??
(repeat the last two lines)

?? Ermati fermati ferma su ******** ??
?? En su ?? la madre che soffre per me
Ma la ************ cuore ***********
La ?? giona bomba ?? morire mi fè

(“Mt. Sabatino”. The site of fierce battles against the Austrians in 1916 and 1917 during WWI. In this song a soldier relates to his mother the hardships of the fighting. Grade: B-.)


Moretina, La

Version from Trentino (as found on website of Coro ANA Milano):

La Moretina la va alla röza
La se ‘ndeniza a resentar
Passò di lì un bel cavaliere
E un sassetto el g’ha tirà
El staga fermo sio cavaliere
Che tuta l’acqua el m’ha ‘ntorbolà.

Il cavaliere senza creanza
‘n altro sassetto el tira ancor
E le camise blanche de lino
Con l’acqua torbola cambia color
Diventa rossa la moretina
Per la vergogna del grande amor.

La moretina la torna a casa
E dal la mama la le ha ciapà
Mi no g’ho colpa se son carina
Il cavaliere el m’ha conquistà.
Mama no darme l’è stà ‘l cavaliere
Che tuta l’acqua ‘l m’ha ‘ntorbolà!

Another version, from Illasi in Verona, as sung by Canzoniere del Progno:

La moretina la va zo al fosso
La se inzenocia a resentar,
passa di lì un bel cavaliere
e un sasseto el gà tirà
ch’el staga fermo, sior cavaliere
che tuta l’acoa ‘l m’ à intorbolà.

El cavaliere senza creanza
N ‘altro sasseto el tira ancor
E le camise bianche de lino
Con l’acoa torbola cambia i color
Deventa rossa la moretina
Par la vergogna del grande amor.

La moretina la torna a casa
E dala mama le gà ciapà;
mama no darme l’è ‘l cavaliere
che tuta l’acoa ‘l m’ à intorbolà.
Mi no g’o colpa se son carina
El cavaliere ‘l m’à conquistà.

Rough translation:

The dark-haired girl went to the moat
??? She fell down nearby ???
A handsome knight passed by
And he threw a stone
The knight was determined
To muddy the water

The knight rudely
Threw another stone
And the white linen shirts
Changed color from the muddy water
The girl turned red
Because of the shame of her great love.

The girl returned home
And was grabbed by her mother
It’s not my fault if I am cute
The knight has conquered me
Mama, don’t hit me, it was the knight
Who muddied all the water!

(“The Dark-Haired Girl” [or “the Dark-Skinned Girl” – – see the discussion below about “Moretto, Morretto”]. In modern times, a fosso (in other versions, röza or roggia), corresponds to a ditch or canal and a cavaliere to a gentleman. But I prefer to believe this song comes from olden times, so I used the more romantic terms: “moat” and “knight”. There are many old photos of Italian women washing their clothes at big communal tubs, which may have been the actual case in this song. Grade: C+.)


Moretto, Moretto

Moretto, moretto, è l’un bel giovinetto
Che porta i capei (i.e., capelli) alla onda del mar         (or, lui porta)

(Repeat last line of verse, throughout)

Su l’onda del mare la barca filava         (or, Al onde)
Moretto chiamava biondina vien qua

Non posso venire, la mamma mi attende
Posso far l’amore ma non maritar

Non posso venire, la mamma mi attende
E vorrei mi dice di non venir con te

Sul onda del mare, sul onda di fiume
Al chiaro di luna l’amore se fa

La mamma non vuole se non c’è isole
La mamma non vuole lasciarla andar

O mamma crudele diceva biondina
Io senza moretto non posso più star

Se non ti voi dare ti mio moretto
Mi butto sul letto e mi lascio morir

Mi lascio morire in un letto di rose
O mamma crudele morir per amor

Other versions:

Venire non posso, la mamma mi attende        (or, mi tiene)
Far l’amor mi conviene, sposarti poi no!

Non posso venire, la mamma mi tende
Il cuore mi rende una gran compassion

Non posso venire, la mamma mi attende
Il cuore mi dice di non venir con te

O mamma O mamma O mamma crudele
Tu lasci morire una giovane d’amor

O mamma crudele diceva biondina
Che lascia morire una giovane d’amor

O mamma crudele diceva biondina
Che senza moretto non vuole più star

Mi levo il cappello, lo getto per terra
Ninetta sei bella, sei bella per me

Rough translation:

That dark-haired lad is a fine young man
With hair like the wave of the ocean.

(Repeat last line of verse, throughout)

On the wave of the sea the people filed off the boat.
The dark guy called to the little blonde to come here.

I can’t come. My mother is waiting for me.
I can make love, but not marry.

I can’t come. My mother is waiting for me
And wants me to tell you that I can’t go with you.

On the wave of the sea, on the wave of the river,
Love is made by the light of the moon.

Mother doesn’t like it if I am not alone.
Mother doesn’t want to let me go.

“Oh cruel Mama,” said the blonde,
“I cannot exist without my dark-haired guy.”

If you don’t want to give me my guy,
I’ll throw myself on the bed and let myself die.

I’ll let myself die on a bed of roses.
Oh cruel mother, I’ll die for love.

Other versions:

I can’t come, my mother is waiting,
It suits me to make love, but not to marry you!

I can’t come. My mother is watching me.
My heart makes a great compassion.

I can’t come. My mother is waiting for me.
My heart tells me not to go with you.

Oh mother, oh mother, oh cruel mother,
You let a young girl die of love.

Oh cruel mother, said the blonde,
To let a young girl die of love.

Oh cruel mother, said the blonde,
Without my dark-haired boy I don’t want to exist.

I take off my hat, I throw it on the ground.
Ninetta, you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful to me.

(“The Boyfriend” [the dark-skinned boy]. A famous song about a boy and a girl along the shore, trying to get together despite the girl’s disapproving mother. When the mother forbids her daughter to see the boy, the girl declares that she cannot go on, and will die for love. You get the impression, though, that somehow she will get over it. Grade: A.)

Translating the word “moretto”, which appears in many of these songs, is a challenge. I have been using “dark-haired” or “dark-skinned” lad. It literally means “little Moor” or “young Moor”, but from the context of the songs the person in question is not a foreigner and there is no indication that it is meant to refer to a non-caucasian Italian. The typical pairing is that the guy is a moretto and the girl is a biondina (“blondie”). There are songs about dark-haired women but I have never seen a reference to a “moretta”. I don’t think it is used in a racist or racialist way, at least not in a derogatory sense. The guy may be a bit roguish and the girl shy and innocent, but that is also common in many Italian folk songs in which the man is not called moretto. On the other hand, “moretto” is not found in modern dictionaries, even for “dialects”, and does not seem to be used in modern songs, so it may not be a polite or politically correct word nowadays. As an aside, there are articles elsewhere on the fact that some Italian surnames denote a Moorish or African descent, one famous example being the (kidnapped and murdered) former prime minister Aldo Moro. Of course it could be that his ancestor was not an actual Moor but just had dark features and picked up that nickname.


Morosa Campagnola, La

O quanta è bella questa campagnola
Che va in campagna a lavorare
La sera quando torna fa l’amore (repeat last two lines, each verse)

Tutte le donne nostre italiane
Sia campagnole o cittadine
Son tutte quante belle per far l’amore

Noi sulla terra troppo strecchistiamo
Io sulla luna vorrei andare
Trovare a le marziane per l’amore

Other verses:

La campagnola è bella e mi ritorna
Le gote rosse lo sguardo dolce
Per far l’amor ci vuol la campagnola

Tra i verdi campi in mezzo alla campagna
La campagnola, con veste a fiori
L’amore sa da far senza pudore

Su la montagna va, la campagnola
E con la gonna spiegazzata
Per far l’amore ha fatto la frittata

On YouTube you can hear Luigi Paoli sing another version, including some verses about a woman from Brindisi (brindisina) and one from Calabria (calabresa), but I could not understand the dialect.

Rough translation:

Oh how beautiful is that country girl,
Who goes out to the countryside to work.
When she returns in the evening she makes love.

All our Italian women,
Whether country girls or from the towns,
All of them are good for making love

We on earth are too restricted.
I’d like to go to the moon
To find Martians for love

The country girl is beautiful and she comes back to me
With her red cheeks, the sweet look –
For making love, it takes the country girl.

Among the green fields in the countryside,
The country girl, with a dress of flowers,
She knows how to make love without shyness.

Up the mountain she goes, the country girl
With a wrinkled skirt
And by making love she has made an omelet

[“to make an omelet” can also mean to make a mess of things, or to become pregnant.]

(“My Sweetheart Country Girl”. A lively dance tune about the girl who goes out by day to work in the countryside. Then when she returns in the evening she is ready for love. Grade: B.)


Mula de Parenzo, La

      (Tutti Mi Chiamano Bionda, La Mia Morosa Vecchia, La Mia Murusa Vegia, Polenta e Baccalà)

(Parenzo is in Istria and is now part of Croatia, so many of the versions are in the Istrian dialect. In standard Italian “mula” is “ragazza”.)

Tutti mi chiamano bionda (leri leri la)
Ma bionda io non sono
Tengo i capelli neri, tengo i capelli neri        (or, porto i capelli)
Tutti mi chiamano bionda (leri leri la)
Ma bionda io non sono
Tengo i capelli neri
Neri come il carbon             (or, sincero nell’amor)

È perchè non m’ami più          (or, sincero nell’amor)

(Same pattern as above:)

La mia murusa vegia
Ga meso su botega
De tutto la vendeva
Polenta e baccalà

Se il mare fosse di tocio
E i monti di polenta
Ohi mamma che tociade
Polenta e baccalà

(e perchè non m’ami più)

se ‘l mare fosi vino
e i laghi de marsala
tuta la vita in bala, tuta la vita in bala

sincero nell’amore
sincero negli amanti
ne ho pasati tanti
e paserò anche te!

Alla finestra t’ho visto
Non t’ho potuto parlare
M’hai fatto innamorare, m’ha fatto innamorare
Ma tu non pensi a me

Tu traditore non sei
Nemmeno un lusinghiero
Mi parlerai sincero, mi parlerai sincero
Sincero nell’amor

La mula de Parenzo        (or, del Parenzo; mula = ragazza)
L’ha messo su bottega
De tutto la vendeva, de tutto la vendeva
fora ch’el baccalà

La me morosa vecia, la tegno de riserva
E quando spunta l’erba
La mando a pascolar

La mando a pascolare, nel mese di settembre
E quando vien novembre, la vado a ritirar

La mando a pascolare, insieme alle caprette
l’amore con le servette, non lo faro mai più

Me piase i bigoî co le luganeghe (a dish of pasta and sausage)
Marieta damela per carità
Marieta damela per carità sul canapé       (canapé = sofa)

Rough translation:

Everyone calls me a blonde
But I am not.
I have black hair, I have black hair.
Everyone calls me a blonde
But I am not.
I have black hair,
Black like coal.

Refrain: It’s because you don’t love me anymore.
Or: I am sincere in love.

(Same pattern as above:)

My old girlfriend
Had a shop
She sold everything.
Polenta and baccala.

If the sea were made of sauce
And the mountains of polenta
Oh, mama, what a stew!
Polenta and baccala.

If the sea were wine
And the lakes marsala
Life would be a ball!

Sincere in love,
Sincere with my lovers
So many have gone from me
And you will go away, too!

I have seen you from the window
But could not speak with you.
You made me fall in love with you
But you don’t think of me.

You are not a traitor
And not a deceiver
Speak to me sincerely
Sincere in love.

The girl of Parenzo
Had a shop
She sold everything
Except baccala.

My old girlfriend,
I keep her in reserve
And when the grass starts growing
I send her out to pasture.

I send her out to pasture
In the month of September.
And when November comes,
I go to get her back.

I send her out to pasture
Together with the young goats.
No more making love
With the servant girls.

Another refrain (almost like a yodel):
I love pasta and sausages
Marietta, give me some for pity’s sake
Give me some on the sofa.

(“The Girl From Parenzo”. There are so many versions of this song, throughout Italy. One verse – If the sea was wine and the lakes were marsala, life would be a ball. Other verses: I keep my old girlfriend in reserve. I send her out to pasture with the sheep so I can fool around with the servant girl. Then when November comes along, I call her back. Another: “Everyone calls me Blondie, but my hair is black as coal.” (??) Grade: A.)



Both sides of my family make gnocchi. In fact a few years ago, the younger members of the Bertolotti family, along with cousin Vera Masutti and my wife Wendy and I, had a gnocchi fest, each preparing their own version, under the guidance of the queen of the Italian kitchen, Eugenia (Jeanne) Masutti Bertolotti. Mine was the worst. It was my first attempt, and it was based on a recipe I found for sweet potato gnocchi, so it was not seriously in the competition. Still, it was quite edible. There was some great gnocchi that day, but I still remember my Grandma Angelina Mazzer’s, that melted in the mouth, with a delicious sauce. I don’t know if she ever set foot in Bologna, but it was similar to a bolognese sauce. Wendy and I “inherited” her gnocchi board, and I hope it will be passed on to the next generation.

Angelina Bellese Mazzer’s Gnocchi

Actually, that title is insulting to her. Making and then cooking gnocchi is all in the technique, and the strict mixing of ingredients (although, like most grandmothers, she did not bother with measuring cups or the like). Making gnocchi like hers will take practice, and luck.

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

3 lbs. Idaho potatoes (usually about 6 medium potatoes)
2-3 tsp. salt
1 beaten egg yolk
Flour (about 1 cup)

You will have to experiment, and may have to use more flour, even doubling it if necessary. In any case, you need enough flour to hold the dumplings together.


Place the potatoes in boiling water with 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Boil until just tender, about 15 minutes. Peel immediately (ouch!) and mash or put them through a ricer. In a large bowl mix together the potatoes, flour, egg yolks and remaining salt into a dough ball. You can use your hands for this.

Next, you will need a clean wooden gnocchi board, or the equivalent, or a table. In any case, the surface should be lightly floured. Transfer the dough to the surface and knead it lightly. Then roll the dough into ropes, about ½-inch thick or so. Cut the “rope” into pieces, no more than 1 inch long. Roll each piece down the back of a fork, to make indentations to hold the sauce better. Set each piece on the floured board, but make sure that they do not touch each other.

Place the gnocchi a few at a time into a big pot of boiling water. Cook them until they rise to the top, and then a minute or two longer. Remove them with a slotted spoon, making sure that they are drained well. Transfer to a warm platter.

Serve with sauce and grated cheese.

We usually serve this with a meat sauce. Here is a typical one from my Mom’s recipes.

Gelsie Bertolotti Mazzer’s Meat Sauce for Gnocchi


6-8 tbs. olive oil (or butter)
1 medium or large diced onion
1-2 cloves finely diced garlic
½ cup finely chopped parsley
1 finely diced carrot
A few chopped up basil leaves, or a little dried basil
1 lb. chopped beef
½ can tomato paste (more, if you like it)
1 medium can of Italian-style peeled tomatoes (more, if you like a tomato-y sauce)
¼ cup white or red wine
Salt and pepper to taste (2-4 tsp. salt, usually, but I prefer no salt at all)


Heat one-half of the olive oil in a Le Creuset or other suitable saucepot. Sauté the onion and carrot until the onion is translucent. Then add the garlic and basil, and continue sautéing another minute or so. Add the wine and then the peeled tomatoes, with their liquid, and simmer for 30 minutes.

A few minutes before those 30 minutes are done, sauté the chopped beef with the remaining olive oil, adding the parsley and the salt and pepper. When the meat is cooked through, add it to the sauce. Then add the tomato paste, and simmer the sauce for another 15 minutes.

Here is another sauce good with gnocchi

Gorgonzola Sauce for Gnocchi


½ lb. butter
1 cup heavy cream
½ lb. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (or Danish blue cheese)
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste


Sizzle the butter in a saucepot. Add the heavy cream and bring it to a boil. Add the gorgonzola and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the pepper as desired. When done, stir in the parmesan cheese. Pour over hot gnocchi.

Gnocchi tips:

Once the gnocchi are cut and rolled on a fork they can be refrigerated or frozen instead of boiling them right away.

Some people prefer just melted butter and grated cheese over the gnocchi rather than sauce.

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