5 Ways Italian Families Say I Love You

For Celebrity Chef, Joe Borio, host of the YouTube cooking show, Cooking Italian with Joe, growing up in the Italian "Family" was always filled with so many ways to say I love you. When it comes to showing love, passion, with a whole lot of hand motions and loud voices, nobody does it better than Italians. Add to this some homemade wine, pasta, eggplant, and the best of the best desserts and you are living in comfort food coma all day long. Here is a list of 5 ways Italians say I love you to their family.

First there is the hug. Sounds simple and kinda common, but not even close. It starts with a full body pullback and a head tilted to the side, then a huge smile and the arms and hands open up, and get ready, here you GO! There is the pull in and then the squeeze. So in the end it's not a hug at all, it is actually massive chest compression followed up with of course, a massive shake. If you are part of the family who is younger and not seen for a bit, the shake will be more of a series of rapid jolts, and it will certainly get your attention as intended. Funny and simple, yet warm and comforting, what I would give to have a hug from my grandpa Tony, with the cigar off to the side, one more time.

The kiss is a big one, and it always begins with a big squeeze of the face and a slight back and forth by your favorite aunt. The lipstick is gonna leave it's mark and is a signature of who kissed you. It’s like a badge of honor on how much they love you and family favorite is always based on how big was your lipstick smudge. Along with the kiss and smudge, you are now left with a strong scent of perfume as you are greeted like the paparazzi, being welcomed by the over caffeinated aunts, cousins, and grandma or nonna all dressed beautifully in the kitchen. There was no greater feeling of love than to be covered with kisses and perfume by my aunt Emily and my aunt Ann. 

The Grab
Almost violent and borderline assault, get close to the uncle who you are named after or who hasn’t seen you in a while, and be prepared for a reach out grab, pull in and a hard slap on the back. This is when you know you’ve waited too long before stopping over at uncle Vito's house or at the very least, calling and saying hi. It is almost like being handled by a local cop for mouthing off, but was always finished with a huge smile and a puff of smoke from the cigar. My uncle Tony was always the best with the grab and still goes for it today with his deep laugh and huge smile, knowing I am loved and part of something special. 

The Pinch
This is a big deal! This is when you get close to your mom or grandma or nonna and you forget to get ready for it. It is the embarrassing squeeze of your face in front of everybody that brings laughter and smiles and red faces and love. So you start off like a fish and then their hand goes to the side and you are in the claw for the pinch. Their fingers like a crab are grabbing and then pinching a large part of your cheek and then with increasing pressure there is the squeeze followed by a shake. Your face will hurt and then have some mild numbness followed by a loss of function for 5 minutes. Although painful, the pinch is always met with positive accolades and comments of how big you are and how much you look like your father. No one was better at the pinch then my mother or nonna, and the smile in their eyes when you smiled back always warmed my heart as I would be red in the face but warm in the heart.

The Slap
Oh boy, welcome home uncle Lou. You walk in and say high to the "Family", and Wham, there it is! Like a bolt lightening you never saw coming and first realize you have been whacked by the faint sting of a hand on your face. Then you hear this huge laugh, see a massive smile and warm eyes and the smell of the cigar. You never were mad, as this is the way Italian tough guys, say I love you, to their nephews while looking strong, teaching you to be tough. After my uncle was 75, the slap became lighter and slower, but was always met with a smile and then tears of happiness as the tough guy, uncle Lou, finally showed he was just a big softy at heart.

You can spend time with Celebrity Chef, Joe Borio and "Cooking Italian with Joe" on YouTube, with Chef Joe Borio, cooking in his very own kitchen and learn how the old school Italians do, as well as benefit from lifetimes of experiences to bring you generations of cooking tips, travel tips, and what to love about Italy, for your family for years to come.

Join Cooking Italian with Joe on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, our blog at Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest or on our website to share in our videos, recipes, stories of family, and love of Italian life. Joseph Borio is an olive oil producer and offers for sale, Extra Virgin Italian Olive Oil, named after his two sons, Vito & Joe’s Extra Virgin Italian Olive Oil, available for purchase at www.cookingitalianwithjoe.com or on www.amazon.com.

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Join Joe Borio, host of, Cooking Italian With Joe, sharing his favorite Italian dishes while he shares stories, tips, offering you easy and simple recipes.

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