"Vedi che ti metto allesso e arrosto: ecco cosa vuol dire l'esserti piaciuta Vittorina"

Background: This excerpt is from a letter between Manzoni and his son-in-law found in Ginzburg's "La famiglia Manzoni". The part that I cannot decipher is the first phrase, which reads literally as "See what I place for you boiled and roasted". He is not discussing a meal, so whatever this means may be allegorical.

Grazie, Joe D'Alessandro

Here is the entire paragraph:

"Avevo ricevuta la buona notizia dal bravo Montanelli, e rispondendogli ho parlato del concerto preso con te. Si rimane dunque che tu mi fai il piacere di rimborsargli le spese vive, fino al nostro per me arcicarissimo rivederci a Genova. E lascio a te la cura di trovare quello che si possa fare di piu conveniente per riconoscere in qualche maniera la sua nobile e felice opera. Vedi che ti metto allesso e arrosto: ecco cosa vuol dire l'esserti piaciuta Vittorina".

Here is some explanation for context. Note that this book is not unlike a "soap opera" in that there are all kinds of interpersonal disputes interposed with other life events, but it is not fiction as far as I know. Ginzburg narrates in a very entertaining style, but these letters between the characters are I believe authentic, that is, they were written by these persons. For me, the letters are often hard to decipher: they often contain run-on sentences, some Milanese and Tuscanese dialect, colloquialisms and idioms, and even some passages in French, which I do not read (Google translate has helped with those, sometimes).

Manzoni is writing to Bista, his future son-in-law, who is going to marry Vittoria, one of Manzoni's 9 children from his first marriage, which ended in the death of his wife Enrichetta.

Montanelli is a lawyer working on a lawsuit for Manzoni, which involves a book Manzoni wrote and I think the dispute is over an illicit publication (the copyright laws not being completely enforceable at that time). But the lawsuit is unrelated to the upcoming marriage.

The "living expenses" that Manzoni offers to reimburse refer to the cost of maintaining Manzoni's youngest daughter, Matilde, who Bista has suggested be relocated to Lucca to live with Bista's grandmother and Bista's sister, to enhance her life experiences and remove her from Manzoni's second wife and maybe her son by her first marriage, neither of whom are well liked by most of the extended Manzoni clan.

As I have thought over this expression "ti metto allesso e arrosto", I wonder if this is some way of saying "I have prepared everything for you in every way", but employing culinary terms, much as Americans might say "stick a fork in him, he's done" when referring to someone who has been beaten badly in a boxing match.

The next paragraph discusses Matilde's delicate stomach but I do not think this clarifies the phrase in question. I am only including the first few sentences.

"Saprai che Matilde e' incomodata d'una gastrica (malattia qui dominante), la quale pero non ha mai avuto un carattere grave, e ora e' sul declinare. Ma cos'ho detto? non ho pensato che Vittorina leggera' questa lettera, e che trovando la parola "grave" quantunque accompagnata dal "non", s'inquietera'".

  • 2
    Could you give a little more context? The paragraphs immediately before and after should be sufficient. He is probably joking about the fact that he is figuratively "grilling" his son-in-law with questions (my translation would be something like See that I boil and roast you: that's what having liked Vittorina means) but without more context it is just a speculation.
    – Denis Nardin
    Feb 29, 2016 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


With the added context I can now try a more reliable translation:

I received the good news from Montanelli, and answering I spoke of the agreement made with you. Hence we go on as planned: you make me the favor of reimbursing him the living expenses until our most dear meeting in Genova. And I leave to you also the problem of finding what's most convenient to do to recognize his noble and happy work. You see I put you to roast and boil: that's what having liked Vittorina means.

Here I put you to roast and boil means that he's giving him a lot of hard work and disagreeable obligations (to anticipate the living expenses of Montanelli, find some kind of reward for the job he has done etc.). Since he's the fiancé of his daughter Manzoni treats him more like family and feels free to drop in his lap any problem needing help.

  • "Giving him a lot of hard work and disagreeable obligations" does make sense in context. I am also curious as to whether this phrase "allesso e arrosto" (boiled and roasted) is a colloquialism, or just something peculiar to Manzoni, that is, something he just invented, or something he adapted from another source (like "in the cauldron boiled and baked)? It seems odd to employ a phrase unknown to his target audience so it must have been recognizable. Manzoni is a 19th century personage so his language might contain archaisms. I checked "Dizionario dei modi di dire" & it does not list this. Mar 2, 2016 at 15:55
  • @JoeD'Alessandro Metto allesso sounds weird to me, but that's probably an archaism or a regionalism. After reading the full paragraph the meaning was crystal clear, at least for me, so I have no doubt that the intended audience got it. For example of similar expressions see lasciar bollire qualcuno nel suo brodo. In general "cooking someone" cannot be a pleasant experience for the cooked :).
    – Denis Nardin
    Mar 2, 2016 at 16:07

It seems like Manzoni wants to say "beware that I'll cook you boiled and roasted if you go on with that Vittorina" it's part a premonition and part a warning... Like the advice of a wise father.

But without a bit of context I may be wrong...

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