~ language and poetry ~
- 6 -

Aldo Fabrizi
(1905 - 1990)

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Aldo Fabrizi, one among Italy's most famous movie actors, was also the author of witty dialect poems, specifically dedicated to food and traditional cooking, passions which he cultivated in real life, which gave reason for his typical stout build.

He is better known as a famous cinema and TV actor than as a poet: not many romans know about his works in verse.
Born in 1905 in vicolo delle Grotte, just off Campo de' Fiori, a popular square in the center of Rome, his studies came abruptly to an end after his father's death, at the age of 11.
During the 1930s, he began his artistic career in variety shows. In 1942 he appeared in a movie, obtaining a good success: it was the first step of a long carreer lasted 35 years, about 80 titles, in most of which he played main characters.
Fabrizi was perfectly confident with comic roles as well as with dramatic ones; despite being considered one of the finest Roman comedians, he is more often remembered as the priest Pietro Pellegrini in Open City (1945), based on the last days of Rome's occupation by the Nazi troops at the end of WW II.
Besides being an excellent actor, he also wrote the script for some of the many films he worked on, he directed a few ones himself, and he even produced two of them.

During the 1960s and the 1970s, he also appeared in two different editions of "Rugantino" (a popular musical, set in 19th century Rome), in a theatre play, and in several TV shows.

Two collections of poems, "La Pastasciutta" (1971) whose main theme is food and his favourite pasta recipes, and "Nonna Minestra" ("Granny Soup", 1974), stand as a legacy of his lifetime passion, which in his late years he had to curb, to his great regret, because having developed health problems he was forbidden from indulging in food, and had to go on a diet.

plaque on Aldo Fabrizi's birthplace, in vicolo delle Grotte 10






Dio disse: « Mò che ho fatto Cielo e Tera,
domani attacco Luce e Firmamento,
mercoledì fò er mare, doppo invento
farfalle e fiori pe' la Primavera.

Pe' giovedì fò er Sole, verso sera
fò li Pianeti, er Fòco, l'Acqua, er Vento,
così se venerdì nun vado lento,
faccio sabbato ingrese e bònasera! »

Finì defatti er sabbato abbonora.
« Mò » disse « vojo vede chi protesta
dicenno che er "Signore" nun lavora...

Ho sfacchinato quarant'ore... basta!
domani ch'è domenica fò festa...
e prima de fa' Adamo fò la Pasta! »


« Having now created the Sky and Earth, » God said
tomorrow I'll start with Light and the Firmament,
on Wednesday I'll create the sea, after that
I'll invent butterflies and flowers for Spring.

By Thursday I'll create the Sun, and in the evening
I'll create Planets, Fire, Water, Wind,
so if I'm not slow on Friday,
I'll avoid working on Saturday, 1 and that's it! »

In fact, on Saturday he finished quite early.
« So » he said « let's see who complains
about the "Lord" not working... 2

I have been toiling for forty hours... that's enough!
Tomorrow is Sunday, I'll enjoy a rest...
and before creating Adam, I'll create Pasta! »

1. - Literally, "I'll spend an English Saturday": in Rome, most activities had no special timetable on Saturday;
to end the working week on Friday is sometimes referred to as "spending an English Saturday".
2. - A play on words: "Signore" has the two meanings of "God" and "Sir" (member of a noble family): the latter title is often used in Rome for teasing lazy persons.


Nun è 'na cosa tanto compricata,
però bisogna sempre fà attenzione
perché ce vò 'na certa proporzione
tra tipo e quantità che va lessata.

Me spiego: quella fina e delicata
va bene tutt'ar più pe' du' persone,
ma si presempio se ne fa un pilone
basta un seconno in più che viè incollata.

Insomma, c'è 'na regola importante:
fino a tre etti se pò fà leggera
poi più s'aumenta e più ce vò pesante.

Er sale è mejo poco, l'acqua assai,
un litro a etto, l'unica maniera,
perché la Pasta nun s'incolli mai.


It's not a very complicated thing,
but you must always be careful,
because a certain proportion is needed
between the shape 1 and the quantity to be boiled.

That is to say, thin and delicate ones
will do for no more than two people,
but if, for example, you prepare a big quantity
just one second is enough to overcook it.

In short, there's an important rule:
up to 300 grams you can prepare light shapes,
the further you cook, the thicker is the shape needed.

Little salt is better, plenty of water,
one liter for each 100 grams, the only way
to avoid Pasta from becoming sticky.

1. - Pasta shapes (spaghetti, penne, fettuccine, rigatoni, etc.)


Un'antra cosa: mai bollilla stretta,
e quanno l'acqua è in piena bollitura,
se butta giù e la pila se riattura
pe' fà riarzà er bollore in fretta in fretta.

Poi dopo un po' s'assaggia: n'anticchietta;
appena è cotta, ancora bella dura,
se leva e je se ferma la cottura
coll'acqua fresca sotto la bocchetta.

Doppo girata un attimo, scolate:
quanno l'urtima gocciola viè fòri
conditela de prescia e scodellate.

Si c'è quarcuno attenti a controllavve:
« mangiate calmi, piano, da signori »,
si state soli... attenti a nun strozzavve.


Another thing: never cook it in a mass,
and as soon as the water is fully boiling,
put the pasta in, and cover it with a lid
to let the water soon come up to the boil again.

After a while, taste it: a few seconds more;
when it is ready, still quite firm,
take it off the fire, and stop its cooking
by cooling it with running water under the tap.

After a quick stir, drain it:
as soon as the last drop comes out
rapidly add the sauce, and serve it.

If somebody is there with you, control yourself:
« eat slowly, neatly, be gentlemen », 1
if you are alone... be careful not to choke.

1. - This verse is in actual Italian, not in dialect.


Ho letto cento libri de cucina,
de storia, d'arte, e nun ce nè uno solo
che citi co' la Pasta er Pastarolo
che unì pe' primo l'acqua e la farina.

Credevo fusse un'opera latina,
invece poi, m'ha detto l'orzarolo,
che l'ha portata a Roma Marco Polo
un giorno che tornava da la Cina.

Pe' me st'affare de la Cina è strano,
chissà se fu inventata da un cinese
o la venneva là un napoletano.

Sapessimo chi è, sia pure tardi,
bisognerebbe faje... a 'gni paese
più monumenti a lui che a Garibardi.


I've read a hundred books about cookery,
history, art, and not one of them,
along with Pasta, mentions its maker
who first blended water and flour.

I thought it was a Latin creation,
but then the grocer told me
that Marco Polo brought it to Rome
one day he was coming back from China.

To me, this story about China sounds strange,
who knows whether Pasta was invented by a Chinese,
or if somebody from Naples was selling it there. 1

If only we knew, however late this may be,
in every country we should dedicate
more monuments to him than to Garibaldi. 2

1. - In popular tradition, Naples used to be credited as the birthplace of pasta.
2. - Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882), military leader of the movement for Italy's unification and independence, is the historic personage who boasts the largest number of monuments in every corner of the country.


So' du' vizietti, me diceva nonno,
che mai nessuno te li pò levà,
perché so' necessari pe' campà
sin dar momento che venimo ar monno.

Er primo vizio provoca er seconno:
er sonno mette fame e fà magnà,
doppo magnato t'aripija sonno
poi t'arzi, magni e torni a riposà.

Insomma, la magnata e la dormita,
massimamente in una certa età,
so' l'uniche du' gioje de la vita.

La sola differenza è questa qui:
che pure si ciài sonno pòi magnà,
ma si ciài fame mica pòi dormì.


They are two habits, grandfather used to tell me,
that nobody will ever lose,
because we need them for living
from the very day we are born.

The former habit causes the latter one:
sleepiness makes you hungry, causing you to eat,
after eating you become sleepy again
then you get up, you eat, and take another rest.

In short, food and sleep,
especially at a certain age,
are the only two joys of life.

There's only one difference:
if you are sleepy you can still eat,
but if you are hungry you simply can't sleep.


Mì nonna, benedetta indó riposa,
se comportava come 'na formica
e puro si avanzava 'na mollica
l'utilizzava per un'antra cosa.

Perciò er dovere primo d'ogni sposa,
pure che costa un'oncia de fatica,
è d'esse sempre, a la maniera antica,
risparmiatrice, pratica e ingegnosa.

Si avanza un po' de pasta, mai buttalla:
se sarta co' un po' d'acqua solamente,
pe' falla abbruscolì senz'abbrucialla.

E la riuscita de 'sta Romanella
che fa faville e che nun costa gnente
dipenne da 'na semplice padella.


My late grandmother, may she be blessed,
was a woman of great foresight
and even if a few crumbs of food were left
she used them for preparing something else.

Therefore a main duty for every housewife,
although it may cost a little effort,
following old customs, is to be always
thrifty, practical and clever.

If a little pasta remains, never throw it away:
quickly fry it using a little water only,
so to slightly scorch it, without burning it.

And the success of this "Romanella"
which is a smasher without costing a penny
depends on the use of a simple pan.

1. - A cheap arrangement, a dish easily set up. (A. Fabrizi's own note)


Mò l'urtima invenzione è 'na padella,
che quello che se còce poi se stacca,
mastice, colla, pece e ceralacca,
se rivorteno come 'na frittella.

'Sta novità sarà 'na cosa bella,
ma dato che la Pasta nun attacca
in pratica sarebbe 'na patacca
perché dev'esse mezz'abbruscatella.

Vedete, er gusto nun dipenne mica
dar fatto che diventa più odorosa,
ma dar sapore de padella antica.

E detto questo, porca la miseria,
fò a meno de la chiusa spiritosa,
perché 'sto piatto qui è 'na cosa seria!


Nowadays, the latest finding is a pan
in which whatever you cook won't stick,
glue, plaster, pitch and sealing-wax
could be turned round like a pancake.

This might be a nice novelty,
but since the Pasta won't stick to it,
actually it's a hoax,
because it has to be a bit scorched.

You see, its taste does not depend
on the smell it takes,
but on the flavour of the old pan.

And now I've said this, damn!
I'll avoid a funny close,
because this dish is really something serious!


Doppo che ho rinnegato Pasta e pane,
so' dieci giorni che nun calo, eppure
resisto, soffro e seguito le cure...
me pare un anno e so' du' settimane.

Nemmanco dormo più, le notti sane,
pe' damme er conciabbocca a le torture,
le passo a immaginà le svojature
co' la lingua de fòra come un cane.

Ma vale poi la pena de soffrì
lontano da 'na tavola e 'na sedia
pensanno che se deve da morì?

Nun è pe' fà er fanatico romano;
però de fronte a 'sto campà d'inedia,
mejo morì co' la forchetta in mano!


After repudiating Pasta and bread,
I haven't lost weight in the past ten days, yet
I resist, I suffer and keep following the cure...
it feels like a year passed, and it's only two weeks.

I don't even sleep any more, the whole night,
to soothe a bit this torture,
I picture to myself delicatessen
with my tongue sticking out, like a dog.

But is this suffering really worth,
away from a table and a chair,
knowing we have to die?

I don't want to sound as a roman fanatic;
but rather than living on starvation,
it would be better to die grasping a fork!


Nun m'aricordo bene in che paesetto,
quanno che mòre un capo de famìa,
er parentado je fà compagnia,
facenno un pranzo intorno ar cataletto.

La tradizione vò che 'sto banchetto,
preparato durante l'agonia,
se faccia, senza tanta ipocrisia,
cor medico, cor prete e'r chirichetto.

Doppo li pianti la famìa se carma
e ar punto che la pasta viè servita,
se brinda a la salute della sarma.

Poi c'è l'invito pe' nun faje un torto
e si a st'invito nun ritorna in vita,
significa ch'er morto è propio morto.


I can't remember well in which small village,
when the head of the family dies
relatives keep him company
by holding a meal around the bier.

According to tradition, to this banquet,
prepared during his agony,
take part, with no hypocrisy,
the doctor, the priest and the altar boy.

After shedding tears, the family cheers up
and by the time Pasta is served,
they make a toast to the dead person. 1

Then comes the invitation, 2 not to do him wrong;
and if this invitation does not bring him back to life,
this means that the dead person is really dead.

1. - A play on words: literally, "they make a toast to the dead man's health".
2. - The dead person is symbolically invited to take part to the feast.


Provate a fa' 'sto sugo, ch'è un poema:
piselli freschi, oppure surgelati,
calamaretti, funghi "cortivati",
così magnate senz'avé patema.

Pe' fa' li calamari c'è un sistema:
se metteno a pezzetti martajati
nell'ajo e l'ojo e bene rosolati,
so' teneri che pareno 'na crema.

Appresso svaporate un po' de vino;
poi pommidoro, funghi e pisellini
insaporiti cor peperoncino.

Formaggio gnente, a la maniera antica,
fatece bavettine o spaghettini...
Bòn appetito e Dio ve benedica!


Try to make this sauce, it's shere poetry:
fresh or frozen peas,
tiny squids, "greenhouse-grown" mushrooms,
so you can eat them without any fear.

There's a way to prepare the squids:
torn into small rough pieces, they are placed
into oil with some garlic, and once browned
they will be as soft as cream.

After that, sprinkle a little wine;
then tomato, mushrooms and small peas
flavoured with red chilli peppers.

No cheese, as the old way,
choose bavettine or spaghettini... 2
Enjoy the dish and God bless you!

1. - Literally: "whimsical style pasta".
2. - Bavettine are flat and thin (about half the width of tagliatelle), while spaghettini are a thin variety of spaghetti.