• April: Italian Tradition and Memories

    The Thursday before Easter was a time when Grandma’s kitchen resembled Grandpa’s pastry shop. She was busy making wheat pies, rice pies, and a heavenly Easter lamb cake sprinkled with coconut.  There was also braided Easter bread, a wreath with colored eggs.  While all her dishes were special, it was her pizzagaina, the Neapolitan pizza rustica, that would turn her into a competitive queen.

    Although Gram was convinced that no one could compete with the texture, moisture, and meats in her treasured recipe (one that’s nearly impossible to duplicate because she measured by handfuls), she was always on the look-out to be certain that she remained unrivaled.  On the Saturday before Easter her in-laws and cousins came by for the women’s brunch and exchange of their hearty pies. As they arrived, she would whisper to us, “No matter what the others taste like, be sure you say something nice.”

    In one of our handwritten family recipes from our mother, which she copied watching Grandma, you can see why Gram believed in the power of food.  My sister, Lois, saved the recipe and today it is being replicated in the kitchen by her son, Jude. For this dish, she diced meats that included baked ham, prosciutto, capicola and pepperoni to go along with the requisite Italian cheeses, mozzarella and basket cheese.

    Today, this Easter Sunday, we will enjoy the pizzagaina and remember our mother — Nanny — and her mother, Great-Grandma. Family stories and family food help us retain our cultural heritage.

  • Providence Journal

  • Share this site