La Parola del Giorno~ the Word of the Day


There are many Italian words whose meanings are obvious to us all. Their spellings are very similar to their English counterparts, which at times makes one believe that learning Italian could be an easy task. Trust me, it’s not: however, I will say that it should never stop anyone from trying to learn the language, or any foreign language for that matter. It certainly hasn’t stopped me.

“Disastro” means exactly what you think it does—disaster. My Italian-English dictionary ( ) defines it as “disaster, calamity, wreck.” And nothing could be farther from the truth.

In Viterbo, Nonna used that word all the time. We would be standing in the kitchen over the pasta board and she would say, “Marco, disastro!” when I had made a mess of something. Not that I had ruined it, or set the house on fire, or killed innocent culinary by-standers—it was not that kind of disastro. Mine were usually of the “wreck” variety. Soon we used that word to describe anything that didn’t seem right to us—a poor fashion choice, the search for misplaced car keys, or an opened package of bread crumbs that accidentally got dumped onto the floor.

Now, back home in America, it continues to be a word that is used around the house all the time. I love it because it is one of those words where the very sound of the word itself describes what it is. The word has a good “mouth-feel” about it.

Its uses in conversation:

“Did you see that new building?” “Disastro!”

“Why did he say that in the meeting?” “Disastro!”

“Look at these brown bananas—Disastro!

“Can you believe she wore that to the party?” “Disastro!”

With Halloween quickly approaching and with the weather taking a turn from summer to fall, I thought a picture of an Italian garden-man frieze from northern Lazio ( ) would be appropriate for this day’s entry. Of course, in Hilton Head the temperature has gone from the 60s earlier in the week back up into the 80s today—“DISASTRO!”

Ciao e a presto~


About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.