La Parola del Giorno~ The Word of the Day~


This is one of my favorite Italian words, if only for the fact that it is one of the few words I know to express astonishment. The word is pronounced “stoop-ay-fah-CHEN-tay” and you can no doubt see that it is similar to the English word “stupefying,” so you already know how to translate it.

Lately, “stupefacente” has been swimming around in my head. I find myself thinking it during rehearsals as I listen to the singers rehearse Verdi’s AIDA at Opera Birmingham ( There are moments when the Italian music and lyrics are so luscious, even when played on a clavinova and sung sotto voce (quietly), that I find myself caught up in the “amazing” work being rehearsed. I also think “stupefacente” when I consider that in two weeks we will be adding dogs, ponies, a camel and an elephant into the mix—beyond the 80 performers!

The February House Beautiful article ( about our home and the loads of blog chat across the blogosphere about our kitchen has me thinking “STUPEFACENTE,” too. Thanks to everyone for discovering and checking out this blog in response to the magazine article. Stephen Drucker, from House Beautiful, even noticed all the response our article was getting.

I first learned today’s “Word of the Day” while in Viterbo, during my first cooking lesson with Nonna. She was demonstrating how to de-bone a chicken without cutting the chicken into pieces. She was de-boning it whole and stuffing it with a mixture of ground veal and pork.

I asked Alessandra, “Come si dice “amazing” in italiano?” as I watched Nonna cleanly remove a thighbone via the center cavity of the chicken.

 “Stupefacente, Marco.”

 “Stupefacente, indeed.” (*)

Each syllable seemed to wrap itself around my awe of Nonna’s knife work. “Amazing” sounded good, but “stoop-ay-fah-CHEN-tay” really seemed to imply an active astonishment. Maybe it was the stress on the syllable “CHEN.”

Try it yourself.

Say “amazing” giving it all the wonderment you can—“a-MAZ-ing.”

Now say “stoop-ay-fah-CHEN-tay”— really hitting the “CHEN.”

Try it again: give it an Italian flair by holding the thumb and forefinger of your right hand together, shaking your wrist, as you stress that syllable: “stoop-ay-fah-CHEN (shake, shake, shake)-tay!”

Va bene, no?

There is your Word of the Day and your Italian lesson all rolled into one.

I think my next posting is going to be about Venice, unless the elephant gives me problems. If so, the next La Parola del Giorno might just be my first Word of the Day~ DISASTRO! (

Ciao e a presto~


(* The whole story of Nonna teaching me how to de-bone a chicken is in one of the chapters of my manuscript “BEYOND THE PASTA: 28 Days of Recipes, Language, and Life with an Italian Family.” I still have letters out to literary agents and hope to post some good news soon about the manuscript moving closer to becoming published.)

(**THE PHOTO: Villa Pisani just north of Padova (Padua, for us English-speaking people). This place is truly “STUPEFACENTE!!!!! Check it out at: . We spent four hours there and were awe-struck the entire time.)

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.