Breakfast part 2 – Monfalcone, Friuli Venezia Giulia

My zio (uncle) Livio and zia (aunt) Dina are so in love. Even after 60 years of being married, it is obvious how much they love each other to anyone who spends time with them. They exchanged the photos below before they were married and still have the much worn original copies. Livio gets up early in the morning and prepares breakfast for both of them. He has done this since the day they were married. These days she has difficulty getting up stairs and bending down, so he cleans the house for her. She calls him la mia stella (my star) and they laugh and tell stories in a mixture of italian and half forgotten English from the 20 years they lived in Australia . They migrated there in 1954 and worked in factories like most Italian migrants, struggling to learn the languages and customs.

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Their time in Australia gave rise to funny stories, which they Iike to recount – there was the time that zio Livio had just bought a car and in the early evening they drove to Luna Park in St Kilda, which was quite far from where they lived in Box Hill. They could not find the way back and ended up getting lost and getting directions from the milkman on his horse and cart who was just starting deliveries at 3.30am. Or the time zia Dina confused the word “kitchen” with “chicken” and told her work mates that she had 10 “kitchens” in the back yard!

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They eventually learned the way of living in Australia but some things in their lives never changed. Whilst staying with them on my trip to Italy, Zio Livio informed me that he has had the same breakfast for nearly every day of his 88 years, including his time in Australia. It was a breakfast that came from a life of poverty in the Veneto region of Italy between the world wars, when you could only eat simple staple foods as that is all that was available.

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It goes like this – Livio boils up about 750 ml of milk and places it into two large breakfast bowls (one for him and one for Dina) and adds some hot percolated coffee. He then gets a couple of bread rolls (white pasta dura bread that you buy easily in Italy), preferably a few days old, and breaks this up into medium sized pieces and drops them into the caffelatte (coffee and milk mixture) until most of it is absorbed. Then he adds a large table spoon of white sugar. At this point if it is looking a bit wet, he adds a bit more bread. He eats it with tremendous gusto and joy. It was a delight watching him tuck into his breakfast.

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He swears by this traditional and simple breakfast and says that it has helped make him the active, fit and happy 88 year old that he is today. Zia Dina has plain sweet biscuits dunked in the same caffelatte, which is what I remember my parents having for breakfast when I was still very young.

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As much as zio Livio swears by his breakfast, I stuck to caffelatte and fruit for breakfast whilst I stayed with them in Monfalcone as the peaches and apricots they had were unbelievably luscious and flavorsome. Every morning over breakfast I would listen to their chatter and think how incredible their love story is.

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No Comments

  • Maria says:

    This is exactly what we had, not only for breakfast but sometimes after school. I am 46 years old and still love it. We migrated to Australia in 1970, it was so hard. Thank you for telling this story, it’s made my day to remember this.

  • carmz says:

    I love this for breakfast… my nonna usually uses good crusty white bread that is a couple of days old, but fresh is still good… 🙂 yum

  • sharon whitehead says:

    what a beautiful story , thank you for sharing it .. i am not sure about the breakfast but i do love my milk coffee and bread so may give it a try one day !

  • Albert Gnaccarini says:

    Hi Paola, I had “pan e caffelatte” for breakfast on the weekend too! It’s a regular winter weekend brekkie for me.

    I wonder of your zio ever has polenta for breakfast. My mum used to give us cold, leftover polenta sliced into small cubes with cold milk and just a sprinkle of salt. I know it sounds odd, but I reckon it was pretty good. Toasted (or grilled, usually) polenta with honey or jam was good for breakfast too. Not much got wasted in mum’s kitchen.

    I can understand the hillarity on hearing the broken and half forgotten English. My folks came out here in ’57 and followed largely the same trajectory with their language skills. I remember mum had a problem with a tight door lock once, not long after dad passed away. As if to assert her independence, she decided fix it herself and proceeded to give the lock a liberal dose of a product I’d left in the garage at her house before I moved out called “Loc-tite”. The name obviously made sense to her, she had a lock that was tight. This stuff must have seemed just the thing to her. Except Loc-tite is intended for assembling mechanical components into an everlasting bond! The consequences were legendary and a source of amusement for all, her included, for years.

    Love the photos.

    Bon viaggio

    Albert

    • Hi Albert, thanks for your comments (and for sharing your stories) and yes Zio does have polenta for breakfast occasionally (leftovers). But it is hard to get him away from “pan e latte”!

  • Catherine says:

    This is a joyful post and reminds me of my wonderful mother in law. Nonna Adelina came from Valonara and Nonno Carlo from Marostica, and my husband still would have this for breakfast daily if made for him. Maybe I will start on weekends. We adore the part of Italy that is your home too and treasure our visits to family there.

  • […] The third was cooking a fantastic meal for lunch (which she insisted on doing) – not an easy feat when when it is 33 degrees and you are 83 years of age – and having me photograph it all for this blog post. The latter is a bit difficult to comprehend for those of a certain age – so I explained that I was “taking photos for the internet”. I think she understood what I meant! She has expereince of blog posts when I was writing one about what my zio Livio eats for breakfast. […]

  • […] her sister in law Dina and brother in law Mario. When I was there last year I wrote a story about zio Livio and his breakfast (which has remain unchanged for about 85 years!). His health has deteriorated quite a lot since […]

  • […] Happy new year (buon anno) to all! I love the start of the year. It is an opportunity to say goodbye to what has been and to plan new ventures. 2015 promises to be an exciting year for me. I hope to be repeating the highly enjoyable seasonal cooking classes/lunches at Prospect Cottage and running classes in my new kitchen space at home in Melbourne’s inner north. Camera in hand (on a tripod actually), I will be trawling through my mother’s old black and white photos, so I can take high quality copies of them to use in blog posts and for other ventures I plan to pursue this year. I have also changed the look of my blog (which I last did this time last year), which makes greater use of images and a simpler format making it easier for you to find old recipes. And there is a planned trip to Italy in early March/April, which I am starting to get very excited about. One of the main reasons for going is to visit my zio Livio on his birthday on 21 March, when he will be turning 91. Amazing really. He had movie star looks in the 1940s and still looks terrific, forever smiling and hopeful. I wrote about him a couple of years back when I was staying with him and my aunt Dina and I shared his typical breakfast. […]

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