(It’s not as hard as you might think.)
Can you guess the busiest day of the year for restaurants in both Italy and the United States? That’s right: Mother’s Day! The way folks in Atlanta celebrate shares a lot in common with the holiday tradition in Italy, with some notable differences. Here are our tips on how best to enjoy this important family occasion in Italian style, right here in Atlanta.
A Bit of History
Though it wasn’t recognized in Italy as an official holiday until 1957, a celebration of motherhood has been recognized this time of year in Italy since the era of the ancient Romans. Weekend festivals in May once celebrated Juno, the goddess of marriage and motherhood. By the time the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire, the festivities’ pagan roots gave way to a celebration of the “mother church” and the Virgin Mary, and it was meant to be a time spent with your family. (Instead of a pagan festival, it became what we might instead call “Take Your Mom to Church Day.”)
Family is among the first things that come to mind when defining what it is to be Italian, and mothers are traditionally the glue that holds the family together. The Sunday family meal was and continues to be sacrosanct. It is a time where mom spends the entire day preparing classic favorites and the family gathers to enjoy a long, relaxing meal enabling everyone to catch up on the happenings of the week.
Modern Mother’s Day in Italy
Today in Italy, as in the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated by spending time with family, by having a nice meal together (that Mom doesn’t have to cook herself), and by letting the person who raised you know that you appreciate them. Church is still in the equation, with Mama’s choice of service. One key difference is that, though the holiday is considered the third biggest in the nation (after Easter and Christmas), it is not considered “commercialized” in Italy the way it is in the U.S. –– people generally don’t even send their mothers cards, let alone buy them jewelry or other elaborate gifts. Throughout Italy, however, one unique item for Mom really stands out: Dessert.
All you’ll need for an authentic Italian Mother’s Day in Atlanta, then, is a plan for lunch and a sweet treat. Here’s what we recommend.
We could technically say “lunch” here instead of “brunch” for two reasons: First, if you really want the Italian experience, brunch hour is spoken for. After a simple breakfast crafted especially for mom comprised of good coffee and perhaps a nice pastry, you head to religious services.
Second, let’s be honest: It’s Mother’s Day, so the brunching hour is going to be absolutely bananas in every restaurant imaginable. If you’re even considering the option of dining out, you’ll want to make your reservation immediately. For an idea of what is served at il Giallo for Mother’s Day brunch, take a look at our menu.
Lunch will fill up quickly too, though, so we suggest booking reservations in advance whenever possible. We like Open Table for reservations; it’s how we reserve seating here at il Giallo, and there are over 4,000 bookable restaurants in the Atlanta area alone. Modern Italians most often spend this holiday at a restaurant, with as much of the family as is able to celebrate with Mom. But until recent years, Mother’s Day lunch was prepared and enjoyed at home.
If your mother isn’t keen on the bustle of a restaurant, here are a few recipes that are easy to make (since Mom’s staying out of the kitchen, per tradition) and sure to impress.
- Braised Chicken and Spring Vegetables from Real Simple (15 minutes hands-on, 40 minutes total)
- Orange and Basil Mussels from Sunset magazine (30 minutes)
- Spring Vegetable Fettuccine Alfredo from the Food Network (30 minutes)
- Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Supper from Better Homes and Gardens (20 minutes)
Add a side salad and some fresh bread, and you just became mom’s favorite!
Whatever You Do, Don’t Forget Dessert
Whether you dine out or stay in, a sweet treat must end your Mother’s Day gathering. The traditional dessert for the holiday in Italy is a heart-shaped cake. Here in Atlanta, it’s very difficult to come by this confectionary theme outside of Valentine’s Day. However, we have some recommendations we’re really excited about that will keep the spirit of the occasion top of mind, without sacrificing authenticity. This is where we shamelessly plug our own desserts! And we don’t even feel a little bit bad about it.
If you haven’t already tried our pizza di fragole, Mother’s Day is a great excuse to eat what is basically a strawberry dessert pizza. There’s also a prevalent stereotype both here and in Europe that the way to a mother’s heart is chocolate! Any chocolate lover will swoon over our tortino di cioccolato, a decadent flourless chocolate torte with amoro whipped cream and candied hazelnuts.
And for those of you celebrating Mother’s Day in your own homes, we have a special gift for you. Our signature dessert is bomboloni, ricotta doughnuts with whipped cream and honey. Pastry Chef Libby Muldawer kindly agreed to share the recipe here.
Eggs, large 8 ea
Granulated Sugar 8 oz / 227 g
Vanilla Extract 1 oz / 28 g
Whole Milk Ricotta 48 oz / 1361 g
Cake Flour 16 oz / 454 g
All Purpose Flour 8 oz / 227 g
Baking Powder 3 Tbsp / 12 g
Salt 1 tsp / 5 g
- Set deep fryer temp. to 350 degrees F.
- Sift dry ingredients together.
- Whisk eggs and sugar together until well blended. Whisk in vanilla.
- Whisk in ricotta until smooth.
- Fold in dry ingredients.
- Scoop then directly drop into fryer.
- Fry until dark golden. (Approx. 3-4 min., depending on scoop size)
Yields 48-60, depending on scoop size.
However you celebrate, we hope that your time with the ones who have cared for you (or the ones you care for) is full of laughter, love, and delicious dessert!