This week’s New Yorker has a review of Rezdôra, a new Italian restaurant; of course I was curious about the name, which is explained thus: “rezdôra means ‘grandmother’ in Modenese dialect.” OK, great, but it’s an odd-looking word, and I wanted to know more. Googling quickly revealed that every review mentions the meaning, and the restaurant’s website leads with it: “Rezdôra, the Modenese word for grandmother, is a rustic Italian restaurant highlighting the cuisine of Emilia Romagna in New York City’s Flatiron neighborhood.” But I had trouble finding any further discussion of the word. Google Books gave me snippets like “Working alongside the rezdora Lidia Cristoni and applying techniques learned as an apprentice to French chef Georges Coigny,” “He explained how the barnyard and kitchen garden were the family matriarch’s (she is called rezdora in local dialect) domain,” and “Loosely translated, rezdora means ‘housewife,’ but what it really means is queen of the kitchen. It is the word that is used to describe the women, usually older, who are keeping alive the traditions of the recipes of Emilia-Romagna.” Which makes it sound like it doesn’t actually mean ‘grandmother’ after all. And it’s still an odd-looking word, and I still want to know its origin. Any suggestions?


  1. This is based on nothing, but maybe it’s the Modenese equivalent of Spanish (I don’t know Italian) “regidora” (female regent)? It’d make some sense in context, and could explain the association with queen of the kitchen; furthermore, judging from my “Romance instinct” I can’t see how “rezdora” could be a composite word.

  2. My linguistic intuition says ‘rezdora’ is just a local word for restaurant (“ristorante” in standard Italian).

  3. John Cowan says

    This blog post in Emiliano-Romagnolo with some Italian glosses, spells it rézdóra and glosses it ‘reggitrice della casa, della famiglia’. The réz- certainly looks cognate to regg-.

  4. So, it’s just “reggitora” (feminine of “reggitore” – “governess”)?

  5. Did you try alternative spellings? Here’s a couple links that talk about “resdora”, same basic meaning.

    The latter is a website for a brand of balasmic vinegar, La Resdora.

    Oh, and found a dictionary (in Italian), with an entry, and also entries for rezdor and rezdorat (it appears to have a dot above the O in all three words). Rezdor, masculine, is the head of a peasant household.

  6. This blog post in Emiliano-Romagnolo with some Italian glosses, spells it rézdóra and glosses it ‘reggitrice della casa, della famiglia’. The réz- certainly looks cognate to regg-.

    So J’s guess was right — excellent intuition!

    Did you try alternative spellings?

    No, and that would clearly have been a good idea.

  7. One of the first pages that came up for me has an even more confusing spelling, “arzdòra”.

  8. Is that change from ‘g’ to ‘z’ related to the same change in “pasta fagioli” to “fazool”?

  9. Roberto Batisti says

    Yep, J is right – it’s the equivalent of Spanish regidora or Italian reggitrice. The Bolognese cognate is arzdåura (åu pronounced pretty much like the diphthong in Eng. cow). Syncope produced some interesting consonant clusters in Emilian dialects.

  10. Thanks for the confirmation and additional info!

  11. There is also a cafe called “Casa Razdora” in downtown Boston. The homepage describes the name this way: “The Razdora is the Italian homemaker, creating all from scratch with her own hands.”

    No indication of what region in Italy the owner comes from, but since they serve piadine, Romagna would make sense.

  12. Anusca Ferrari says

    The Rezdôra is not only the queen of the kitchen. She manages the full household. She is the one running the big family house (usually several generatiosn lived together under the same roof) and keeping the money of the household (male who did not work in the field – and had an external paid job – had to hand their salaries to her, and she was administering it for the whole family).

  13. Patrick Andries says

    Rachele Mussolini is qualified as “rezdora” by Maurizio Serra in his Mussolini (in French). He says it is a romagnole word meaning a women responsible for a household, an estate, Presumably a strong-willed and well organized woman. A bit like a Roman domina.

  14. Patrick Andries says

    It is apparently also spelled l’azdora ou l’arzdora (hence la rezdora by interpreting the initial l’a- as an article). Translating the start of an article:

    «The dialect term used in ancient times to define this important figure is “Azdora” which literally means ruler, housewife, the one who presides over the housekeeping »–vero-senso-dell-azdora-romagnola-spiegato-da-paolo-cevoli-nella-sua-web-serie.html

    Also, found under azdôra in this dictionary. There is a whole set of words of the same family (azdôr masculine, azdurarì the function, adzurêr verb = to command).,

    Would love to know the etymology.

  15. It’s equivalent to reggitora; see comments above.

Speak Your Mind