Beautiful Cassata Siciliano from Caffe Sicilia
As is done in many homes throughout the community, Saint Joseph pasta is served at the Groppo’s home with traditional Saint Joseph sauce (the main ingredients are fava beans and cauliflower), or with Nina’s homemade jarred tomato sauce. Everyone is always welcome at the Groppo’s Feast of Saint joseph and well over one hundred pounds were made to severe well over several hundred dinners. Viva San Giuseppe!
This past week I stopped by to say hello to Maria and her family at Caffe Sicila. Nina, Maria’s Mom, invited me to come and see she and her sister Grace making pignulata. Caffe Sicilia has dozens and dozens of orders for this wonderful traditional fried pastry desert and they had already begun the first stages several days ago. Nina explains it is most typically served in Sicilian homes around Christmas time, but also other holidays too. Making this treat is a multi-step process, and labor intensive in the volume undertaken by Caffe Sicilia. The sisters offered lots of tips for making the most delicious pignulata (also spelled pignolata) and I hope I am remembering all that they shared!
The bits of dough are throughly drained and set aside for several days as they release more oil. When ready to mold the pignulata, a glaze made of boiled honey and sugar is poured over the fried dough.
Nina and Grace grew up in Terrasini, Sicily, emigrating from Italy when they were young teens. The sisters talked about how back in their childhood days, most people did not have a kitchen oven. To bake their weekly bread and to bake treats during the holidays, families would take their loaves and cookies and cakes to the local town baker and “rent” their oven for a nominal fee. Cookies and cakes were placed on long, long wooden trays and carefully placed in the baker’s oven. Now everyone has their own oven, but most don’t bake nearly as much as they did in the old days.
Visit Caffe Sicilia and see their beautiful display of cuccidati (and every other kind of traditional Sicilian Christmas cookie), wonderfully sweet and spicy gingerbread cakes, cassata cakes, mini pignulata’s, Maria’s handmade marzipan fruits, and much, much more deliciousness!
Caffe Sicilia is located at 40 Main Street. For more information call 978-283-7345.
Pecorelle di Pasqua are a traditional Sicilian Easter treat although, when Easter falls very close to Saint Joseph’s Day as it did this year, Maria shared that the Lambs of Easter are often found on Saint Joseph altars. Maria’s are so charming I am planning to purchase several to Not eat but to decorate our Easter table. They are very reasonably priced, especially considering all the work that is involved with making and how expensive is the marzapane.
Each lamb is molded from almond dough and after drying, skillfully hand painted by Maria. I popped into Caffe Sicilia Wednesday morning to say hello and happily caught Maria just as she was beginning to paint and decorate the Easter lambs. We filmed her working with my movie camera for Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project and here is a glimpse with iPhone photos and Instagrams.
With thanks, appreciation, and the deepest gratitude to Maria Cracchiolo and her parents Nina and Domenic Damico for their continued help with Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project. From the project’s onset, they have opened their kitchen doors and very generously shared Sicilian traditions and baking techniques. We are so very fortunate to have Maria, her family, and Caffe Sicilia in our Gloucester Community. With thanks again to Mayor Sefatia for suggesting we knock on Maria’s door!
Happy Spring! Happy Easter!
Some favorite images from election night at City Hall were of the hopeful and pensive faces of friends and families waiting for results. Best wishes and congratulations to all the candidates for jobs well done!
During this year’s round of filming for Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project, I had the wonderful good fortune to stop at Caffe Sicilia just as Maria Cracchiolo was about to decorate her signature Cassata Siciliana.
It was the morning of Saint Joseph Day and as you can imagine, Caffe Sicilia was bustling to fill the day’s special orders of delicious Sicilian pastries and altar breads. Nevertheless, I asked Maria if she would mind if I filmed her while she decorated the cake. No, not all, she graciously allowed. Maria is so deft at cake making that it took her only minutes to create this masterpiece. It’s all been captured for our film project! The Vine below gives a tiny glimpse of Maria’s artistry.
Cassata Siciliana is also traditionally served at Easter time. What a gorgeous gift Caffe Sicilia’s cassata would make to share at your family’s Easter celebration, which as you may know is coming up very soon, in less than two weeks, on Sunday, April 5th. Believe me when I write, Maria’s Cassata Siciliaina tastes as good as it looks–divine, actually! A partial list of the ingredients includes sponge cake, ricotta, liquor, marzipan, royal icing, and candied fruit.
Special orders may be placed by calling Caffe Sicilia at 978-283-7345.