A Bottle of Red, A Bottle of…

Quick story about my maternal Poppa Michele (Italian for Michael)…

He first came over from Italy during the 20s, making several trips back & forth on merchant ships over the next decade or so.

In 1938, he returned to Italy for the final time to bring his wife (my Nanny) & his 2 daughters (my 10 year old Mom & her older sister by 8 years, my Aunt Mariana) to America.

He was an incredibly hard-working man his entire life & they always lived in the same house as us…be it our 4-family home in the Sunset Park/Borough Park section of Brooklyn, NY & then our 3-family home a few miles away in Dyker Heights.

In both places, Poppa had his wine press & his “Italian jungle”.

Dozens & dozens of tomato plants, squash/”gagootz”, the mandatory fig tree, hot peppers, a few grape vines & as many other fruits & vegetables that the land could support…

…right in the middle of residential neighborhoods! Who says I ain’t a country boy?!?

And, OMG, did he take ever advantage of his beloved wine press!

He made several barrels of wine every year…a very hearty red wine, I might add…and he thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of his labor.

For years & years, he would drink an entire bottle of homemade red with his dinner. And since he wasn’t a man of large stature, he would really feel the effects of this, especially as he grew older.

My grandmother didn’t always appreciate it as he would often get, er, a “bit crabby” & she always blamed his love of wine.

Finally, she forced him to cut back on his drinking.

But as a “dutiful wife” (now there’s a phrase you never hear any more…and thank God for that!), she didn’t force him to stop drinking entirely at supper.

(Note: We ate “supper” every night. On Sundays & holidays, it was “dinner”.

And even though we were the prototypical American family of Italian descent, we NEVER ate pasta & sauce.

It was always “macaroni & gravy”!!!)


She did, however, insist that he dilute his homemade wine with ginger ale. Sometimes, 7-Up..

Half & half.

He agreed.

50% diluted red wine, for sure!

That’s exactly how I remember always going down.

So Nanny was pretty successful, right? Got her way while still keeping peace in the family, right?

Well… 🤔🤔🤔

Oh, sure, Poppa now drank his wine diluted. There was no doubt about that.

But, by the time he finished eating, he’d drunk an entire bottle of red AND an entire bottle of 🥤 !!!

Apparently, Nanny hadn’t received much of a formal education back in the li’l town of Gildone, in the province of Campobasso, in the Italian region of Abruzzo.

(Yes, for all my paisans out there, I’m 1/2 Abruzzese & 1/2 Neapolitan…and 100% 🇺🇸!)


Thanks so very much for listening!

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