The “FANUK” Mystery Solved

Fanuk Fennel

Part 2: “Old School Foods”

Editor’s Note: Italians are so food-obsessed that even their insults and racial slurs are food-related. Cucuzza, mulignan, and unfortunately, “fanuk”. To be clear, this article is only about the actual food and there is no Italian food double-speak involved.

Fennel and anise always caused confusion in my family. Similar flavors yes, but not the same thing. I’m sure this mix-up happened back in the day when my great-grandparents started speaking broken (Brooklyn) English, instead of their native Italian. If that’s not bad enough, I have this memory of my Grandfather calling anise/fennel a word that I recall sounding like “vunuk”. I asked Flo and she wasn’t sure but thought it meant anise or licorice. I tried googling “vunuk”, translating fennel, anise, liquor, etc – no luck. Then I decided to type in variations of “vunuk” adding and leaving out letters. After a long search, the truth machine prevailed,  “Anuk” led me to Fanuk.

Finally, an answer to this mangled family diction memory!

Fennel (our fanuk) in my family is served after dinner and before dessert – when the nuts and chocolates are put on the table. “It’s great for digestion” my Mother always says and if you’re eating a 4 course meal on sunday or Christmas Eve, you’ll need it!

We serve fanuk cut into 1 inch pieces, served on a plate centered around a small dish of olive oil, pepper, salt and lemon. Is raw fennel root an acquired taste?  To the gen-pop I would say yes– it’s pretty old school. These days people will drink fennel tea instead of the raw root alternative. I never thought fanuk out of the ordinary, and we dip everything in olive oil.


1/2 cup olive oil – high quality always
2 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A strong squeeze of lemon
1 fennel bulb

1. For the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients at least 15 min before you serve (for best flavor)

2. For the fennel bulb – cut off the bottom half-inch or so, Then slice the rest up into 1 inch pieces (white part only).

3. Place on a platter with the olive oil mix in the center.

Enjoy and DIGEST!