The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Some Love for the Italians on this St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

I used to celebrate St Patrick’s Day like a madman.  As a recent college graduate living in Chicago’s Yuppieville, there was no way to avoid an Irish-style pub – Kincaid’s, Durkin’s, Timothy O’Toole’s, The Hidden Shamrock, Celtic Mist, Uncle Paddy’s Celtic Explosion, etc.

Ok, that last one wasn’t a real pub but, DAMN, that would be a killer name.

So I embraced the Irish.  I got into Irish music, learned about the culture, and even worked at a pub – Harrington’s.  It was there that I met an awesome crew of actual Dubliners who taught me some important Irish lessons – like calling everyone a “Hairy Eye” and urinating on your car windshield instead of using an ice scraper.  No joke, it works wonders on frozen locks, too.

But the Irish didn’t always embrace me back.  Outside of the off-the-boat guys I knew and a few randoms, I never felt welcomed by Chicago’s Irish community.  I always got these snooty looks at other Irish bars like, “what’s that little brown guy doing in here.”  I attributed to all the jerkweed Notre Dame alums and fans in Chicago, but that’s an opinion for another day.

You know who took me in?  The ITALIANS!

A few years after graduation, I got a job with the City of Chicago’s Department of Streets & Sanitation.  Many decades ago, the different departments of the city’s public services were run by different ethnicities – the cops were run by the Irish, the firemen by the Polish, and the Italians ran Streets & San.   When I started, they immediately took me in and treated me as one of their own.  Guys with names like Sammy, Nello, Franco, Dominick, Vito, Mario, and about half a dozen Tony’s.  It was there that I learned about pinky rings and silk see-through socks.   I learned that House of Vittori had the best Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago, but I don’t dare go there with the one Vittori I knew because of bad blood.  I learned how to make melanzane (eggplant) the right way and that true Italians don’t call it “tomato sauce.”  They call it “gravy.”


food is love

Don’t forget to check out The Sicilian’s recipe for pasta with meatballs.

Drunken Irish suck

They had a lot a pride in their traditions and culture – still do – and they were happy as vongole (clams) in their communities.  But as an outsider, I didn’t think they were getting a fair shake when compared to the Irish.

Think about it.  The Irish have St. Patrick’s Day and in Chicago that means TWO major parades.  People flock there to see the Chicago River tinted green and to be “Irish for the Day.”  The Italians?  They got a half-assed parade on Columbus Day.

Around the world, when you say “Chicago Italian,” people automatically think Al Capone.  The Italians just can’t shake him.  Sure he was probably the most notorious gangster since Attila the Hun.  But the Irish also had their share in Chicago – Dean O’Banion, Spike O’Donnell, Big Jim O’Leary.

Now there’s a new gang that’s perpetuating Italian stereotypes…

jersey shore njcom

jersey shore cast bikinis

And what I thought was truly unfair was the almost complete lack of good derogatory terms for the Irish.  The Irish (ok, I guess me, too) had the luxury of choosing from a long list of names when referring to Italians.  They could and did call Italians dagos, whops, guineas, greaseballs, guidos, and garlic eaters, to name a few.

In return, the only euphemisms I had ever heard an Italian use when referring to an Irish person were Turkeys and Mickers.   Betcha didn’t know that Turkey was a name for the Irish, did you?  Maybe they were being nice, but that’s sooooo lame.

That’s why I myself taught them Mickers.

So on this weekend where it’s going to be all about the Irish, I thought I’d give a special shout-out to you Italians.  Especially the ones in Chicago.  I’m not a Frank Sinatra fan but, hey, it’s St. Patrick’s Day.

sinatra sucks


How will you be celebrating St Patty’s day?  Do you have any derogatory names for the Irish that I may have missed?

Just kidding, you don’t have to answer that one.  Unless you have a really good one.



About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

17 comments on “Some Love for the Italians on this St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

  1. Heidi
    March 15, 2013

    Sending to my Italian cousins in Chicago! Happy St. Patty’s! 🙂
    And yes, I groan that the greaseball Jersey Shore, Housewives of NJ, Mob Wives, et al, are only serving to perpetuate the sterotype that so many have tried to nullify. My Italian family is NOTHING like that. (Okay, so maybe we can be a little loud, but…ugh)

  2. Yinzerella
    March 15, 2013

    They do a nice Columbus Day parade in Pittsburgh’s lil Italy, Bloomfield.
    I don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I am not at all Irish. And I don’t need a special day for whisky. Everyday is whisky day.
    Maybe I should make some corned beef, though.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 15, 2013

      Not so ironically, I’m looking at some whiskey now and wondering when drinking during work hours went out of style… Got my corned beef ready!

  3. cloverandthetwins
    March 15, 2013

    Love this; thanks for sharing it. I am sending to my family (we’re 100% Italian). My in-laws are Irish. I think the two – Irish/Italian – mix really well together. Oh, in my children’s adventure novel, Clover and the Twins, the twins are Italian, but the luck of the Irish is behind that clover imprint on the dog’s ears. Do you know what the four-leaf clover stands for?

  4. cloverandthetwins
    March 15, 2013

    I won’t make you wait to find out.

    In Irish tradition, the shamrock or three-leaf clover represents the Holy Trinity–the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. A rare fourth leaf represents God’s Grace. The four-leaf clover is the luckiest clover of all. – niki

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 15, 2013

      I knew it was for luck, but never knew the symbolism behind it. That’s really really fascinating.

      I’ll make sure to check out ur new book. Congrats on that!!

      Thanks for sharing and for stopping by!

  5. oliviatwxxted
    March 15, 2013

    interesting post. My mothers’s side is Irish & Italian from Boston which probably rivals Chicago in terms of the Irish/Italian population. The cultures are actually v. similar – both clannish, both about the food and the drink. My father’s side is Czech and I have to say the Italian/Irish side is a lot more fun at family parties.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 15, 2013

      I’m sure the Czechs have their moments… Usually any gathering with a string ethnic identity is a hoot.

  6. Pingback: 5 Necessary St. Patrick’s Day Recipes | Sunset Daily

  7. a2sicilian
    March 15, 2013

    Bravo Giovanni. Grazie. I’m half Italian from my full-blooded mama but 1/4 Irish from my Dad. I’ve know many wonderful Irish people. But I also know, from college years, of all the ethnic “gangs” in San Francisco, you did not mess with the Irish guys from the Sunset district after they had been drinking. Those boys were always looking for a fight.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 15, 2013

      Heck with the gangs, you didn’t want to mess Garry (ol’ Garry Eye) who used to work the door with me. He was about 5’4″, 100 pounds but was fearless. There was a drunk who was about 6’4″, 250 who picked a fight with Garry. If we weren’t there who knows what would’ve happened to the guy.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 15, 2013

      …and the guys I worked with called me Gianni.

  8. thewineraconteur
    March 15, 2013

    Well you kind of lost me, on the not being a fan of “Old Blue Eyes,” but as he would say “sasich his own.” (The spelling may be off, but there is no comparison when it comes to the culinary arts, the Paisans have it all the way).

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 15, 2013

      Yeah, I know I’m in the very tiny majority in terms if Sinatra. Same with Adele these days. But I can appreciate his talent. Was a really good actor too…

  9. the winegetter
    March 16, 2013

    Nothing Irish in me and not really into that whole Ireland and Irish craze anyway (that island does NOT produce decent wine, so why would I care?)…so I very much appreciate appreciating the Italian culture. Much, much closer to my heart.

  10. lindsaynhyatt
    March 17, 2013

    St. Patty’s Day is the only time I admit my heritage (my Mom was a McCracken!) But, I always end up eating Italian that day (my grandma was Morabito!) 😉

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2013 by in Music, The Chi and tagged , , , , , , , .
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