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Jul 8, 2007 08:43 AM

End Vowel Ommission in NJ Italian Restaurants

Over the last view years I have seen this trend in Italian Restaurants in the NJ area where I live to omit the end vowel of some ingredients and dishes. (And maybe it was always there and I just started to realize it recently). So I'm by now accustomed to hearing "Proscuitt" and "Mozzarell".
The waiter in a Milburn Italian place yesterday however took this concept to a whole new level. The "Rigaton Salsicc" where funny but it become ridiculous or hilarious (depending what your stance is towards lingustic creativity) when the tuna special was announced with "Broccol and mashed potat" (pronounced like "potate").
I'm not sure if our waiter was serious or just making fun of this trend. I was tempted to ask him about the "Penne Vodka" to see what he would have done with that. You certainly can save pronoucing a lot of vowels that way.
Anybody else having a funny story or an opinion on this?

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  1. You must not be a native! I recently had the same discussion with some friends, and the consensus was that most of us that grew up in NYC and NJ in Italian families had the same pronunciation ingrained in us.

    1 Reply
    1. re: irishnyc

      Absolutely. I grew up in the 70s with "mootzadell," "prooshoot," and "gabagool." Just like they pronounce everything in the Sopranos.

      And it wasn't just the Italian-Americans. My Italian-born grandfather pronounced food this way too. And the Italian owner of an Italian restaurant we used to go to on Arthur Ave in the Bronx did too.

      Now it's hard because my sister moved to Italy ten years ago. In Florence at least, they pronounce every letter properly. I feel like an idiot if I slip up and say moozadell.

    2. My husband's family is from NJ and I've learned to pronounce words sans the last vowel. Well, after my FIL asked what was in my lasagna, and I said ricotta, mozzerella etc....and he looked at my as though I just committed a crime against cheese!! ;)
      So, now it's rigot, mutzerell, gabagol, soprasot, proscuit.........

      1 Reply
      1. re: monavano

        LOL!... It looks so funny in print!. That's the way the Lower East Side Italians spoke. If you spoke that way, no self respecting father would let you date his daughter! Most people now pronounce ALL the letters, though I do occasionally hear the 'gabbagool' pronunciation.

      2. Tony Soprano recently ordered a gabbagool sandwich.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Ellen

          Having just returned from two weeks in Italy I find this very amusing as final vowels are certainly not omitted in italian speech there.

          1. re: seal

            Thank you for stating that. I'm from New England and NONE of the Italo-Americans that we know drop the final vowel of Italian words. ( Without wanting to offend anyone, I may also say that it is considered not good form to drop that vowel.)

            1. re: Gio

              I grew up in SW CT and also lived in Quincy, eating often in North End and Federal Hill in Prov. I heard plenty of "mannagot", "gabbagool" and "mortadell" in both areas. Nothing quite as ridiculous as the OP (never heard "cannol" or "raviol" and they don't use "mootz" in Boston), but plenty of dropped vowels on some words just the same.

              However, Stamford/Bridgeport is just about as bad as North Jersey in this regard.

              1. re: Panini Guy

                I'm thinking that the dropped vowel thing may be a corruption of the Sicilian dialect, which is almost a language unto itself. OTOH I may be wrong; it just could be a cultural thing in certain localities.
                Again, certainly not wanting to offend!

                1. re: Gio

                  I think you're right. I grew up in upstate NY, and my Sicilian grandparents pronounced things that way.

                  1. re: Gio

                    My grandparents are from S. Italy (Naples and Bari), met in Brooklyn, and later moved to Spring Valley NY. They drop some vowels on some words, but not on others. I know my grandfather did business with a lot of Sicilians. "Mozzarell" "Mortadell" but then "lasagna" "rigotta" "cannoli" "strufoli""maccheroni"- strange. My uncle that came over later actually has the same pattern, and he speaks fairly standard Italian. Capicola we never had, anyone know where that originates?

                2. re: Gio

                  It's a Joisey thing...but they do it in Philly too.
                  I have an Ital/Amer friend in the W Philly Suburbs who puts "rigot and mozarell" into her lasagna. Hmmm...she does pronounce it "lasagna". Interesting..

                  1. re: Gio

                    Funny- I am not of Italian heritage- but grew up in the Boston area. One of my SIL is third generation Italian, and her dad always drops the vowels. I always just chuckle to myself. Don't remember anyone dropping the vowels when I was in ROme, though.

                    1. re: macca

                      that's because up until recently everyone in Italy (minus the Florentines) spoke their own regional dialect. Sometimes this is so distinct as to be essentially a different language, which seriously hindered literacy rates. Only relatively recently have young people and the educated started to speak standard Italian (which is Florentine dialect) in casual conversation. This is because Italy was separate little states under France, Spain, the Vatican, and others until the 1860's, and so the concept of "Italian" as a language is fairly new.

              2. I'm originally from New England, where it's also common practice to drop vowels, but not to the extremes done in Jersey. It was several years after moving her before I realized that "I-O" was "aglio et olio", but I'm now talking like a native (almost)
                BTW: Oops--you added a consonant to omission......

                3 Replies
                1. re: johnpm

                  And I'm originally from northern NJ, now living in the Boston area, and I grew up saying "prezhoot" and "mozzarell" and "manigawt" and "brezhoot". Now I put the ending vowel where they belong. I just didn't know better at the time.

                  Of course, up here in the Boston area, I'm living in the land of the Missing "R's" after the letter "A". But you know what? Those "Rs" show up on the ends of words that end in the "uh" sound:

                  Being the daughter of a speech/English teacher and the granddaughter of two English teachers, I'd have to say the Boston-area accents are more frustrating to me. But I do love knowing when I'm speaking to a native New Jerseyan. I kinda miss that accent every once in awhile. :-)

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Lots of Bostonians put an r at the end of vodka- When I was in Ireland, a bartender at a pub we visited was surprised when he found out I was from Boston, as I there is no R when I say Vodka!

                  2. re: johnpm

                    We frequented most of Providence's old-time Italian restaurants, where my father was a big fan of aglio et olio pasta. He pronounced it "alya-olya." I still have no idea how to say that.

                    At the market where I worked after school a guy once hand-wrote a sign for "Bresuit" and another for "Supersard."

                  3. no one has mentioned the classic vowel displacement: "abeetz" = pizza.

                    Also: manigawt = manicotti

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Bob W

                      I hear calzone here in Florida rather than the correct pronunciation which is calzonay

                      same for minestrone (ending pronounced like own)

                      1. re: smartie

                        And, let us not forget about those who insert an "N" into words that are not spelled that way. Whether I hear it said or whether I read it on a menu, it drives me to distraction to hear/see "RollaNtini", as in Eggplant Rollantini. Most likely this is not even a legitimate word in Italian to begin with, but adding an "N" where it does not belong just adds to the general atmosphere of illiteracy that is so pervasive nowadays.

                          1. re: smartie

                            Just curious. How does one add an "n" sound to avocado? I shudder as I await your reply...

                            1. re: smartie

                              And "marscapone" rather than "mascarpone" cheese, which I have heard not only average folks but also some Food TV chef say, though I forget which one.

                              1. re: veryveryrosalind

                                Sandra Lee is notorious for that,. But worse, I even heard Michael Chiarello say it, too.

                                1. re: veryveryrosalind

                                  I used to watch a show on PBS called Capril's Cafe'... and this chef Capril used to say 'chipole-tee' all the time instead of 'chipote-lay". I have seen commercials for fast-food joints who serve chipotle burgers pronounce it 'chipole-tee" as well. All one has to do is look closely at the spelling.. Drives me crazy.

                          2. re: Bob W

                            I'm guessing abeetz is for "la pizza," the way "arugula" (not standard Italian, if any Italian at all) would be for "la rucola".

                            I still haven't met any Italians who have ever heard of manicotti, much less manigawt.

                            I don't even want to say how far down the thread I read before I realized gabbagool was capocollo (it is, isn't it?).

                            1. re: mbfant

                              "Abeetz" is how New Haven (Connecticut) Italians traditionally pronounce "apizza". The word "apizza" is not a case of vowel displacement, or syllabic misdivision, but simply a standard alternate form of "pizza" in the Neapolitan language of the late 19th century. The b-p phonemic merger, like the g-c phonemic merger, was common in 19th century Neapolitan, as was end vowel dropping, leading to the "abeetz" pronunciation.
                              New Haven Italians also call the cheese on pizza "scamotz", which most people seem to think is a variant of "mozzarella", but this is not the case. It's a variant of "scamozza", the Neapolitan variant of "scamorza", actual mozzarella being rare on pizza.

                              1. re: mbfant


                                If you need help with translations, I'm born, raised and still live in New Jersey!