Sunday dinner is sacred to Nicole Polizzi, otherwise known as Snooki by the many of us who grew up watching Jersey Shore. The mom of three, who helped usher in an era of American reality TV (and that iconic poof hairstyle!), is a huge fan of a big, end-of-the-week sit-down with loved ones. It’s a chance to pass the creamy pasta, share gossip, pour — and re-pour — wine, and unwind before a busy new week begins. It’s a simple thing, but it’s so precious. In fact, Polizzi treasures big family dinners so much that she’s down to have one with all the Jersey Shore: Family Vacation crew and their kids.
“Yeah!” she tells Romper about a big family dinner idea. “I mean, I feel like we still haven't gotten all the kids together at once, so that would be amazing.” Yes, please! The fans are literally begging.
But when they do get everyone together, they are going to need a big table. Polizzi shares Giovanna, 8, Lorenzo, 10, and Angelo, 3, with husband Jionni LaValle, plus there’s Paul “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio’s daughter Amabella, 9; Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino’s son Romeo, 14 months, with wife Lauren, who is currently expecting their second; Deena Cortese’s sons Christopher, 3, and Cameron, 1, with husband Christopher Buckner; Jenni “JWoww” Farley’s daughter Meilani, 8, and son Greyson, 6; and Ronnie Ortiz-Magro’s daughter Ariana, 4.
“All together, eventually, it's gonna be 11 kids, which is crazy, crazy!” says Polizzi. But the kind of crazy that is so precious to families (and to fans watching from home). “Eventually I would love to get everyone together and obviously get it on the show,” she adds. “’Cause I feel like that'd be a huge moment for the fans too, but yeah, that's a work in progress.”
The Messyness star, who is celebrating being included in the Cheez-It Reality TV Collector’s Cheddition 100% Real Original boxes of the cheesy snack, also opened up to Romper about the heartwarming reason why snack time is just as important as family dinners and the reason why she’s already thinking about Christmas cookies.
I just wanted to start by asking, what was your family's food culture when you were growing up? Did you have any family traditions or favorite foods or anything like that?
Well, I was adopted into an Italian family, so obviously everything was Italian and delicious. But my favorite memory was probably going to my nanny's house on Sunday. So you get the pasta, the meatballs, the chicken cutlets. It was literally my best time. I would do anything to be a kid and go to my nanny's house again.
So now that you have a family of your own, do you carry on any of those traditions?
I mean, I really try and cook. I'm not the best cook. I try my best, but for the kids — my mother-in-law lives five minutes down the road. So, every Sunday we go there and she cooks all the meals. And if we don't go one Sunday, she calls me freaking out, “Where are you?” So yeah, we kind of passed it over with our kids, to our parents, but hopefully I could do that when I'm a nanny.
Do you have any of her recipes? Do you recreate them or…?
I definitely have my grandma's her recipe book, but I don't have time ever to just try and do it ... Once everything dies down a little bit, I would eventually love to try and cook and do all of her things. But like I said, I'm not a good cook. I need step-by-step instructions, a detailed what to do ‘cause it doesn't come naturally.
Yes that's OK. I'm right there with you ... So what does meal and food prep look like in your house usually? Is there a chef's glass of wine typically involved?
Well, yeah, every time I feel like. I try and have a good glass of wine every night just ‘cause it calms me down... I have my own wine, Messy Mawma. So, I'll have my cabernet or my chardonnay. And then, I mean, it's really easy with the kids. I mean they're kind of picky. So I'll do the pasta with butter. I'll make them chicken wings. They love chicken wings ... I would have to say my air fryer is my saving grace cause I cook everything in there ... I do the broccoli and cheese for the kids in there, and it literally takes six minutes.
And it's also good for reheating.
Yeah, it makes everything nice and crispy and not soggy.
Yes! So you said your kids are picky eaters. How do you handle that?
So, I always add cheese to things because my kids love cheese. So, I'll do the broccoli with cheese, or I'll do asparagus and they could do a cheese dip, just fun things to try and do that. They honestly love ranch... I love doing the platters of vegetables and they could dip it in the ranch just to get something. I mean, it's definitely hard ... I was a picky eater when I was a kid, so I get it. But I try and make them not eat chips all the time.
Now you're doing a new partnership with Cheez-It. I see your box back there, that is so cool!
Yeah. Literally this is actually in my office cause I'm like, I'm so freaked out about it. It’s so freaking cool!
I love that. So, your kids are gonna see your face...
Well, when I got this in the mail, I was like, oh my god. Freaking out. And I put all the boxes together and I left on the table for them to see when I got home. And they were like, “Mom, what's happening here?” because my kids love Cheez-Its. There's always a box of Cheez-Its in my pantry, and we always snack on them. If we're watching a movie or they want a late-night snack, they'll have some Cheez-Its ... It's always in my house, so the fact that I'm on box and they saw me, they freaked out. I feel like they think I'm cool for a little bit.
So big dinners often leave big messes, especially with kids. How do you embrace the messiness when it comes to meal times?
I mean, it is what it is. When I see my son just spill all his snacks all over the floor, and then he's stepping on them cause he thinks it's funny, I'm like screaming inside. It's fine. And then I'm like, “OK, it's time to clean up.” So I let him know, we have to clean it up. For my older two... they kind of understand. “Listen, if you're done with your plate, you gotta throw it away, put it in the sink.” They already know how to do that, but I'm still trying to train my 3-year-old to understand ... I try and make it fun with the vacuum and dancing and stuff like that. So, I mean, I scream inside, but they help me get it done.
I have a 3-year-old son too. And it's like, whenever they see the cereal or the snacks on the floor, they just have to step in it.
I have my vacuum literally by my door all times, and I use it probably a hundred times a day.
So your kids, do they like to cook or bake or prepare snacks or anything with you?
Yeah, my Giovanna, she loves to bake, and I'm actually really good at baking. I don't mind baking. Baking is fun, Christmas cookies and all of that. I do it with my mom. It's a fun thing. I like baking and then I'm trying to teach them how to do stuff themselves ... I'm like, “If you're ever alone — you're not gonna be, but if, God forbid you're alone in the house and you need to survive — I need you guys to know what to do.” So we have sandwiches they can make... I told them how to make every single type of sandwich. They know how to heat up a pizza or something. I try and help them with making easy things, so if I'm taking a nap they know they can go and make the sandwich themselves.
So, it gets easier.
Yeah, it does. I definitely want my kids to be independent cause I was such an independent person, so I want them to just do their own thing and also give me a break cause I have three kids, so…
So what kind of Christmas traditions do you have? I know you said you like baking cookies. Is there a specific type of cookie that's your favorite or do you make all different kinds?
I love the Russian cookie. It's like the snowball cookie. That’s my favorite, the powder one. Oh, I could literally eat 50 of them. I love those. And then my mom makes the, I don't know the Italian name for it, the rainbow one with the layers.
And your kids, do they like helping with that too?
I mean they're into it for the first 20 minutes, and then they're over it, but it's nice to share that with them for a little bit.
So, I saw on your Instagram that you already have your fall decorations up. I love decorating early too.
Yeah, I'm a winter girl. I enjoy summer for the first two weeks then I'm like, “It's so hot. I'm over it. Let's go.” So, I try and rush it up as quick as possible... I always put my fall decorations out the last week of August and then my lights for Christmas and everything go up Oct. 30 ... I like to expand the season.
And I'm not forgetting Thanksgiving. Everyone's like, “You forgetting it!” I'm like, “No, I'm not.” Because my birthday falls around Thanksgiving. Sometimes it is on Thanksgiving! So I never fully skip Thanksgiving. Look, I'll have a turkey here and there, but I'd rather prolong Christmas because it's just such a fun and joyous time. Why not?
Yes. Thanksgiving can have its one day.