Advertisements

Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Italian

São Paulo

Many Italians left Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and it was one of the largest modern emigrations any country has seen (Ireland was another). Argentina was a popular destination, but so were Brazil, the United States, Uruguay, Canada, Venezuela and Peru. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, an estimated 8.9 million Italians emigrated to the Americas, 7.6 million to other countries in Europe, 300,000 to Africa, 42,000 to Oceania and 13,000 to Asia.

Brasil’s Ellis Island-Santa Catarina

Italian Immigrants in South America

After Italian unification in 1861, the Italian economy improved. However, generations of subdividing plots, poor land management and farming methods and the phylloxera epidemic (microscopic root insect similar to an aphid that wiped out the Italian wine industry in the 1870s), all led to major ecomonic losses for most Italians. As a result, increasing numbers of young Italian men began seeking work abroad, first in France and Switzerland, then in the Americas, as transatlantic shipping became more reliable and less expensive.

Argentina was the preferred destination in the 1870s and 1880s, next Brazil until the turn of the century and, then, the U.S. until World War I. As the great majority of Italian emigrants were economic migrants, it was the availability of work, above all, that dictated their preferred destinations. Argentina was popular, at first, because of geography; farm laborers could find work in Argentina to earn extra income during the Northern Hemisphere winter. As the economy there boomed due to demand for its agricultural products, the need for laborers also grew and Domingo Sarmiento, president of Argentina (1868-1874), encouraged immigration. In 1890 Argentina suffered a severe economic downturn, a financial recession, which also affected its neighbors and the U.S. At the same time, Brazil’s coffee planters were becoming more aggressive in seeking cheap labor. São Paulo began to subsidize passage and lodging for new immigrants. In the 1880s, coffee plantation owners promoted Brazil heavily as a work destination, so a large proportion of Italian emigrants were attracted to Brazil. However, a few years later, word of the ill-treatment of Italian workers in Brazil led to outrage in Italy. This outcry sharply curtailed the number of Italian immigrants to Brazil and helped the numbers increase to the United States.

In contrast to the situation in South America, the U.S. needed cheap labor for its factories, not for farming, and many Italians preferred the life of a factory worker to that of a farm laborer or ranch hand. So the United States absorbed most of the Italian immigrants until after World War I, when a series of anti-immigration laws closed the country to Southern Europeans. After World War II, Italian emigration expanded to places like Australia, but improving economic conditions in Italy would eventually reduce immigration to more stable levels.

La Boca

File:Bocajrs 1908.jpg

Boca Juniors team, during the amateur era of the Argentine Football Association

The neighborhood of La Boca is known in Argentine history for being one of the oldest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. It’s port was the entry point for immigrants in the 1900’s and, today, it is known for the rows of brightly painted houses and the tango. Located in the very southern part of Buenos Aires, this area was once a trade center and shipyard. During the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s, the La Boca neighborhood became home to Buenos Aires’ first ‘Little Italy’. This community gave birth to the tango and the dance was celebrated in tango halls, bars and brothels. La Boca was popular for quite sometime, but as the years past, the neighborhood declined. Today, La Boca is mostly frequented by visitors for its famous Caminito Street, tango shows and to catch a world class football game at La Bombonera Stadium. The club was founded in April 1905 by five Italian immigrants.

The main areas of Italian settlement in Brazil were in the southern and southeastern regions, namely the states of São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais.  Among all the Italians who immigrated to Brazil, 70% went to São Paulo. The rest went mostly to the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais.  In 1880, due to the great numbers of Italian immigrants, the Brazilian government created another Italian colony, Caxias do Sul. After initially settling in the government-promoted colonies, many of the Italian immigrants spread into other areas of Rio Grande do Sul seeking better opportunities.

Wine production introduced by Italians in Caxias do Sul.

The Italians established many vineyards in the region. Today, the wine produced in these areas of Italian colonization in southern Brazil, is much appreciated within the country though little is available for export. Many Italians also worked in factories (in 1901, 81% of the São Paulo’s factory workers were Italians). The workers established themselves in the center of the city, living in multi-family row houses, and these urban centers gave birth to typical Italian neighborhoods – a Little Italy, (such as Mooca).  Other Italians became traders selling their products throughout the region. A common presence on the streets of São Paulo were the Italian boys selling newspapers. Despite the poverty and poor working conditions faced by many Italians in Brazil, over time, most of this population achieved some personal success and changed their low class economic situation. The children of Italians, born in Brazil, often changed their social status as they diversified their field of work, leaving the poor conditions of their parents behind.

Italian Students in Brazil.

St. Vito Festival is one of the most important Italian festivals in São Paulo. It is a celebration in honor of Saint Vito, the patron saint of Polignano a Mare, a city in the Puglia region, in Italy. Many Italian immigrants in Brás, a São Paulo district, came from Puglia. Festa de São Vito is also a time when the Italian community in São Paulo gathers to party and eat traditional food. Other important Italian celebrations in São Paulo are Our Lady of Casaluce, also in Brás (May), Our Lady of Achiropita, in Bela Vista (August) and St. Gennaro, in Mooca (September). As São Paulo grew, so did the Italian community and the St. Vito Festiva. An estimated 140,000 people attend the festival every year.

Italian Influences In Argentine and Brazilian Cuisine

Argentina

Argentine cuisine has been strongly influenced by Italian cuisine. Italian staple dishes like pizza and pasta are common. Pasta is usually served simply prepared with butter, oil, tomato or bechamel-based sauces. Pizza (locally pronounced pisa or pitsa) more closely resembles Italian calzones than it does its Italian ancestor. Typical Argentine pizzas include pizza canchera (thick crust, tomato sauce, no cheese), pizza rellena (stuffed pizza), pizza por metro (pizza by the meter) and pizza a la parrilla (grilled pizza). The most popular pizza, Argentine fugazza comes from the Italian focaccia (Genoan), but the addition of cheese to the dish (fugaza con queso or fugazzeta) is an Argentine invention. Fainá is a type of thin pizza made with chickpea flour (adopted from northern Italy). The name comes from the Ligurian word for the Italian, farinata. 

Nevertheless, pasta surpasses pizza consumption in Argentina. Among them are tallarines (fettuccine), ravioles (ravioli), ñoquis (gnocchi) and canelones (cannelloni). It is common in Argentina for pasta to be eaten with white bread, which is unusual in Italy. This can be explained by the fact that Argentine pastas tend to come with a large amount of tomato sauce (Italian sugo). Sorrentinos are also a local dish with a misleading name (they do not come from Sorrento, but were invented in Mar del Plata). They look like big round ravioli, stuffed with mozzarella, cottage cheese and basil and served in tomato sauce. 

Polenta comes from Northern Italy and is very common throughout Argentina. Just like polenta in Italy, this cornmeal dish is eaten as a main course with sauce and melted cheese. Milanesa Napolitana is an Argentine innovation, despite its name, and it consists of breaded meat with cheese, tomatoes and sometimes ham on top of the meat. Pasta frola, a recipe heavily influenced by Southern Italian cuisine, consists of a buttery pastry with a filling made of quince jam or milk caramel (dulce de leche). Argentine ice cream (Spanish Helado; Gelato in Italian) is particularly popular for dessert. Its creamy texture comes from heavy cream and the flavors range from classical chocolate with almonds to Dulce de Leche to kiwi, wine or tangerine. Ice cream was again a legacy of the Italians.

Pizza de Fugazza

Fugazza, a kind of pizza, though it lacks a tomato-based sauce and has a thicker, airy crust. It’s always topped with a pile of sweet onions and sometimes with mozzarella cheese and cooked in a deep pizza pan or cast-iron skillet. Fugazza makes a great appetizer or main dish. You can add other toppings of course – olives, herbs, ham, etc. The onions are typically not pre-cooked in Argentina

Yield: Makes 1 14-inch pizza.

Ingredients:

  • 2 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (100-105 degrees F)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2-3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Thin slices of mozzarella cheese (optional)

Directions:

Place the warm water in a small bowl. Stir 1 teaspoon sugar into the water and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, until mixture is bubbly.

Place the flour, olive oil and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer and mix together briefly using the dough hook. Add the yeast/water mixture and begin to knead. The mixture should come together as a soft, stretchy dough, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add a bit more flour, if mixture is too wet or add a bit more water, if mixture seems dry, crumbly or overly firm. Knead for 5-10 minutes, until dough is smooth, soft and elastic.

Oil a bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, peel and slice the onion into very thin strips. Place them in a bowl of cold salted water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain onions well and dry them with paper towels.

Once the dough has risen, punch down and shape into a smooth ball. Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a 14-inch pizza pan with 1 inch sides. Place the ball of dough in the middle of the pan and flatten gently with your fingers. Let dough relax for 10 minutes.

Continue to flatten dough in the pan, pushing it toward the sides of the pan, letting it relax in between, until the dough covers the bottom of the pan.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Sprinkle the onions over the top of the dough. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the onions and sprinkle with the dried oregano.

Place the fugazza in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. If desired, remove fugazza from the oven and top with thin slices of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Return to the oven and bake until fugazza is golden brown and crispy around the edges. Brown onions under the broiler for the last 3 minutes of cooking, if desired. Remove from the oven and cut into slices to serve.

Pizza de Fugazzeta

Fugazzeta is a variation of the popular Argentinian, fugazza, an onion-topped pizza that is very similar to Italian-style focaccia. Fugazzeta is a double crusted version of fugazza, stuffed with cheese and topped with the same sweet onions. Fugazzeta de verdura has all of this plus a layer of sautéed spinach and vegetables.

Yield: 1 12-inch pizza.

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 onion
  • 6-8 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup grated aged provolone cheese 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Warm the milk to 100-105 degrees F and place in a small bowl. Stir the sugar into the milk and sprinkle the yeast over. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, until mixture is bubbly.

Place the flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer and mix together briefly using the dough hook. Add the yeast/milk mixture and begin to knead, adding the water gradually. The mixture should come together as a soft, stretchy dough, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add a bit more flour, if mixture is too wet or and add a bit more water, if mixture seems dry, crumbly, or overly firm. Knead for 5-10 minutes, until dough is smooth, soft and elastic.

Oil a bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, peel and slice the onion into very thin strips. Place them in a bowl of cold salted water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain onions well and dry them with paper towels.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into two pieces. Roll each half into a smooth ball. Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a 12-inch pizza pan or cast iron skillet. Place one ball of dough in the middle of the pan and flatten gently with your fingers. Let dough relax for 10 minutes.

Continue to flatten the dough, pushing it toward the sides of the pan, letting it relax in between, until the dough covers the bottom of the pan. Oil the counter and roll the other piece of dough into a 12-inch circle, letting it relax in between until it holds its shape.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place the slices of mozzarella cheese over the dough in the pan. Sprinkle the provolone over the mozzarella. Place the other round of dough over the cheese and seal the edges of the two dough circles together.

Top the pizza with the sliced onions. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the onions and sprinkle with the dried oregano and some Parmesan cheese.

Place the fugazzeta in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and crispy. Brown the onions under the broiler for the last 3 minutes of cooking if desired. 

Remove from the oven. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into slices to serve.

Pizza de Fainá

Fainá is a nutty, peppery flatbread (related to the italian flatbread, Farinata) made with garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour. It makes a great appetizer, (especially with toppings), but it’s most often served as an accompaniment to pizza. In fact, topping a slice of pizza with a piece of fainá is a very common practice in both Argentina and Uruguay, where fainá is popular. When pizza and fainá are paired this way it’s called pizza a caballo (horseback pizza).

pizza a caballo

Fainá is very quick and easy to make and you can find garbanzo bean flour (gluten free) at many natural food stores.

Yield: 1 12-inch flatbread

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-2 1/2 cups water

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk the garbanzo bean flour together with the salt, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the Parmesan cheese and a generous amount of ground black pepper.

Whisk in 1 3/4 cups of water until the mixture is well blended. Set batter aside for about a half hour, to let the garbanzo flour absorb some of the water.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. When it is hot, place the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch pizza pan. Heat the pan in the oven until very hot.

Gradually stir remaining water into the batter mixture until it is thin enough to pour. Remove the hot pizza pan from oven and immediately pour the batter into the pan. The batter should make a thin (about 1/4 inch) layer. Place the pan back in the oven and bake until fainá is golden and crispy (about 8-10 minutes). Cut the faina into pieces and serve.

Brazil

Italians brought new recipes and new types of food to Brazil that eventually changed Brazil’s cuisine. Aside from the typical Italian cuisine like pizza, pasta, risotto and ossobuco, Italians helped to created new dishes that, today, are typically Brazilian. Galeto (from the Italian Galletto –  grilled chicken), Frango com Polenta (Chicken with fried polenta), bife à parmegiana (beef prepared with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese), Catupiry cheese ( a soft, mild-tasting cheese that can be spread over toast, crackers and bread or used in cooking), new types of sausage, such as Linguiça Calabresa and Linguiça Toscana (literally Calabrian and Tuscan Sausage), Chocotone (Panettone with chocolate chips) and many other dishes were created or influenced by the Italian community.

Frango Con Quiabo

Brazilian comfort food – a simple dish of stewed chicken with okra. Okra can be used to thicken certain Brazilian stews, but in this recipe the okra is fried separately and then added to the stew at the very end, a technique that keeps the okra crisp and tender, yet not slimy. Frango con quiabo is often served over a polenta-like corn pudding called angu, as well as over rice (or even both).

Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole chicken breasts, cut into serving-size pieces
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 cups fresh okra (or one bag of frozen okra)
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth
  • Angu, for serving, see recipe below

Directions:

Cut the stems off the okra and cut the okra into half-inch rounds. Place okra in a colander and salt generously, tossing to coat all the pieces with some salt. Season with black pepper. Let okra rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

For the marinade, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the chicken pieces in a dish or ziplock bag and cover with the marinade, turning chicken to coat. Refrigerate the chicken for at least 30 minutes (chicken can marinate several hours to overnight).

Place 4 tablespoons of vegetable  oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the okra and fry for about 5 minutes, until the edges start to brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove okra to a plate covered in paper towels, and set aside.

Add the chicken pieces to the same skillet and cook briefly until browned on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add the chopped onion, pepper and tomato to the skillet. Cook vegetables until soft and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the chicken back into the skillet and add some chicken broth until the chicken is about half covered. Simmer chicken, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Just before serving, add the okra to the chicken. Serve over Angu (creamy polenta) or rice.

Angu

A simple Brazilian side dish made of cooked cornmeal, similar to polenta. Angu is traditionally prepared with cornmeal, water and a little salt for flavoring. Chicken or beef broth can replace some of the water to add more flavor. Angu can be very creamy or it can be cooked longer until it’s thick enough to be placed in a mold. A popular way to serve angu is to shape it in a fluted ring mold, then serve the main dish (such as chicken with okra) in the middle of the unmolded cornmeal ring.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups stone ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions:

Bring water and chicken broth to a boil. Slowly stir in the cornmeal.

Season with salt to taste. Cook at a low simmer, stirring frequently, until cornmeal reaches desired consistency, adding more liquid if necessary. Remove from heat, stir in butter and serve.

If using a mold, cook cornmeal until very thick, about 30-40 minutes. Stir in butter. Use 1-2 tablespoons additional butter to grease the inside of a ring mold generously and pour the hot cornmeal into the mold. Let cool for about 10 minutes before gently unmolding. Serves four as side dish.

Bife à Parmegiana

Ingredients

Serves: 4

  • 4 steaks
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons wheat flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 8 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the steaks with garlic and salt. Dredge steak in the flour, the beaten egg and breadcrumbs, in that order. Fry in hot oil until golden brown.

Spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Arrange the steaks side by side in the dish and cover with the remaining sauce and mozzarella slices. Sprinkle oregano on top.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve at once.

Chocolate Panettone – Chocottone

Chocottone is the clever name for the chocolate version of traditional Italian panettone. It’s a rich chocolate brioche bread, baked in a high round dome and drizzled with chocolate glaze. Chocolate chips and nuts replace the traditional dried fruits.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour, divided
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast, divided
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons softened butter, divided
  • 4 tablespoons Nutella, or other chocolate/hazelnut spread
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Chocolate Glaze:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup

Directions:

Make the sponge:

Place 1 1/2 cups flour, 2/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons raspberry jam and 1 teaspoon yeast in a small bowl and whisk together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rest for 3 hours.

Make the dough:

In the bowl of a standing mixer add the sponge, 3/4 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon yeast. Use the hook attachment to knead the dough until the mixture is smooth and stretchy, about 3-5 minutes.

Add 3 egg yolks, one at a time and knead until dough is smooth, shiny and stretchy.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Return dough to the mixer and add salt, vanilla, honey and 1 teaspoon yeast. Knead for 1 minute. Add 3 egg yolks, one at a time, and knead until smooth.

Add the 8 tablespoons softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the Nutella, 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to knead until dough is shiny, stretchy, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl (about 5 minutes).

Toss the chocolate chips and pecans with 2 tablespoons of flour. Add them to the dough and knead briefly, until just mixed in.

Place the dough in a oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Make a small “x” in the top of the dough by snipping it with scissors.

Place dough inside of a 6 inch diameter panettone mold, or use a clean, buttered coffee can lined with parchment paper. Let dough rise in a warm place until triple in size (at least 3 hours).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. Place the panettone in the oven and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Bake the panettone for about 1 hour, until it has risen high and springs back a little when pressed on top (like a muffin).

Let panettone cool in the pan on a rack.

Make chocolate glaze:

On low heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter with 1 cup chocolate chips. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon corn syrup. While still warm, drizzle icing decoratively over top of panettone .

Store panettone wrapped in plastic for up to 1 week.

Approaching the ferry slip with a view of the Main Building at Ellis Island, NY.

This post concludes my articles on the history of the Italian immigrants and their journey to find a better life in the Americas. My next weekly feature will look indepth at the contributions Italians have made world-wide in the arts, cusine and as world leaders. Hope you will look forward to those posts.

Advertisements

Flooded banks of the Brazos River, Texas, c.1910

The few Italians who came to Texas during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were mainly explorers, adventurers or missionaries. The Italian presence in the state goes back to the earliest years of Spanish exploration. Like Christopher Columbus, Italians were often in the employ of the Spanish during that early period of discovery. Some soldiers of fortune came from northern Italy, but the larger numbers were from Sicily and Naples, provinces that were under the Spanish crown at various times. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s explorations in 1541 included soldiers with the Italian surnames of Loro, Napolitano and Romano, among others. When Texas became a settled territory in the late 1700’s, individual Italian merchants began to arrive. Among them was Vincente Micheli who came to Nacogdoches from Brescia.

Prospero Bernardi bust

Prospero Bernardi, an Italian immigrant who took part in the Battle of San Jacinto, where he was wounded on April 21, 1836.

In 1836, when Texas won independence from Mexico, Italian-born Prospero Bernardi was one of the Texans who fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. The older cities of San Antonio, Nacogdoches and Victoria have Italian families who date back to this period. Not until the 1880’s, however, did Italian immigrants begin to arrive in Texas in large groups. Between 1880 and 1920, immigration to Texas increased from a trickle to a flood. In 1870 there were 186 Italian residents in Texas. By 1920 their numbers had swelled to 8,024. The immigrants’ primary goal was to provide a higher standard of living for themselves and their families. The Italian immigrants were drawn by railroad and steamship advertisements, notices published in the Italian-language press, letters from Italian immigrants already in America and word-of-mouth information. Italian Texans learned to grow cotton and corn on Texas soil, to speak the English language and to adapt to their new environment. They purchased land, opened businesses and acquired a degree of geographic mobility.

Italian-owned Val Verde Winery, Del Rio, Texas

These were mostly farmers who settled in three areas: the Brazos Valley around Bryan, mainland Galveston County and Montague County in the Red River Valley. The Montague group was from northern Italy. Never large in number, they engaged in agriculture, including planting some vineyards, primarily to supply the family table, but a few small wineries operated until Prohibition. Over in southwest Texas, Frank Qualia, who came from northern Italy to Del Rio, established Texas’ oldest winery in 1883. The Val Verde Winery managed to survive Prohibition by selling table grapes from the Qualia family vineyards. A fourth group has largely “come and gone.” These Italians were the thousands of miners and brick makers of Thurber. Between 1880 and 1920, this coal-mining town grew to a population of 10,000. Now, it is a virtual ghost town, a mere exit sign on Interstate 20, west of Fort Worth. Most of the Italians of Thurber moved to other areas when the mines and factories closed. Another group of Italians worked building a railroad in 1881 that extended from Richmond and Rosenberg to Brownsville. So many Italians were employed that the rail line became known as the “Macaroni Line.” Financial problems halted construction at Victoria in 1882 but many of the workers stayed in the area and settled in Victoria, Houston, San Antonio and Galveston. The Brazos Valley Italians came from impoverished Sicily, specifically from three villages, Poggioreale, Corleone and Salaparuta. After a period of tenant farming cotton and corn, they began to acquire land, some of it being flood-prone bottom land that had been passed over by previous immigrants. Estimates in the late 1800’s on the numbers of Italians along the Brazos ranged from 2,400 to 3,000. In 1899, heavy rainfall caused severe flooding in the Brazos bottom and some of the Italian families left the area for mainland Galveston County, where other Italians had begun to establish vegetable and fruit farms.There another weather disaster, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, created havoc for these Italian-Texans, damaging their farmland with the surging saltwater tide. (In the first week of December in 1913, major flooding occured in the state of Texas. According to the official records, the Brazos crested at 42 feet at Highbank. In September of 1936, another flood hit Highbank but this time the river crested at 40 feet). However, the families stood fast, continuing their farming or finding employment in nearby Houston. Today, the Galveston County towns of League City and Dickinson retain their Italian heritage.

Bales of Cotton Saved From Flooding

The pillars of Italian cultural identity in Texas have been principally food, faith and family. First is membership in the Roman Catholic Church. This can be seen in “Italian” parishes today, such as St. Anthony’s in Bryan, Shrine of the True Cross in Dickinson, St. Francesco Di Paola in San Antonio and others. Also, the tradition of the St. Joseph Altar on the feast day, March 19, remains a custom in several Texas cities. On this day in Sicily, dishes of pasta, cakes and breads were placed on a specially decorated table in the church to symbolize food to the poor. Second, knowledge of the preparation of Italian cuisine and the customs that go along with the celebration of the meal – such as folk music and dance – are other important factors in maintaining Italian identity. One distinguishing dance is the tarantella, almost always part of the wedding feast. Social historians describe the Sicilian tarantella as “full of movement and abandon,” a dance that centuries ago fused with the Spanish fandango, performed in the Italian style without castanets and played with a certain melody. At times the sole accompaniment is the rhythmic clapping of hands.

Annual Festa Italiana

 Festa Italiana University of St Thomas 3800 Montrose Boulevard Houston, TX

Third, the foods and folk customs are almost always shared with the family. Italian consciousness does not depend on any one of these attributes, but a sum of all of them all. It is manifested in a pride in Italian achievements, especially, in architecture and sculpture. Courthouses designed by immigrated Italian architects grace many Texas county seats. Other public spaces are anchored with sculptures by Italian-Texans. Among such artists is Pompeo Coppini, who was born in Tuscany in 1870 and arrived in Austin in 1901. His sculptures include the Littlefield Fountain at the University of Texas in Austin, the statue of Gov. Sul Ross on the campus of Texas A&M University and the Alamo Cenotaph Memorial in San Antonio, the city he made his home and where he was buried in 1957.

Littlefield Fountain at the University of Texas in Austin by Pompeo Coppini.

Oscar and Frederick Ruffini, two Genoese brothers, designed many Texas public buildings. Frederick (b.1851) arrived in Austin in 1877. He was the architect of 19th century courthouses in Henderson, Longview, Georgetown and Corsicana.  Oscar (b.1858) settled in San Angelo and was the architect for several West Texas courthouses including those in Concho, Mills, Sutton, Sterling and Crockett counties. Other Italian artists in Texas include: John C. Filippone, print maker for George Roe’s version of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; Rodolfo Guzzardi, painter of landscapes, including “Palo Duro Canyon-Texas”;  sculptor Louis Amateis and Enrico Cerrachio, creator of the Sam Houston monument in Houston’s Hermann Park. Parks, airports, streets and communities bear the names of prominent Italian immigrants, among them Bruni Park in Laredo, named for Antonio Mateo Bruni and Varisco Airport in Bryan, named for Biagio Varisco. The Italians in Texas constitute the sixth largest ethnic group in the state, according to figures from the U.S. census of 1990. In that year, when the total population of Texas was 16.9 million, the number of Texans who said they were Italian or part-Italian was 441,256. Sources: Texas Almanac and The Italian Experience in Texas, by Valentine J. Belfiglio, Eakin Press, Austin, 1983.

A Few Oral Histories:

Photo taken in Poggioreale, Sicily in the mid 1990’s.

“In the 1870’s and 1880’s, a wave of immigrants from Sicily boosted the population of the Highbank settlement to over 300. These early settlers travelled by wagons, stage coach, by horseback and Model T Ford from the Ports of New Orleans and Galveston to the banks of the Brazos River. Many of the Highbank settlers came from Poggioreale, Sicily and from surrounding villages and towns. Poggioreale was the former home of many of Highbank’s settlers, including the Falsone, Guida, & the Falco families. Other settlers came from small towns in an around Poggioreale like Alcomo and Palermo.” According to Mary Lena (Salvato) Hall, “My grandfather, Carlo Salvato passed away on November 22, 1949 at the age of 82. He was born in Italy on November 2, 1867. He came to the United States with his brother Frank Salvato. The two families purchased the Rogers farm that set up the beginning of the Italian farming community in High Bank. He is buried in Marlin, TX. He had five sons, Tony Salvato, Frank Salvato, Ross Salvato, Nick Salvato and Carlo Salvato and all are buried in Marlin except Tony Salvato who is buried in Houston. Four daughters Lula Lewis, Pauline Vetrano, Fena Rao and Mary LaPagelia all deceased and buried in Houston. They originally came through Louisiana.” “Our old house consisted of three bedrooms: a combination dining room and living room and a small kitchen (ten feet wide and fifteen feet long). The kitchen was located next to the bedroom, which was no bigger than today’s modern walk in closet. Linen were stored in metal trunks. Sunday clothes worn to church were hung in a cloth cabinet called chiffonier.” “The Italian influence can still be seen with Italian surnames appearing on most of the area mailboxes!. Prominent Italian families in the Highbank area once included the Salvato family, Alfano family, the Barbera and LaBarbera families, the Burresha family, the Cangelosi family, the Catalano family, the Corpora family, the Falco family, the Falsone family, the Margoitta family, the Martino family, the Parrino family, the Salvaggio family and others.” The following description of early Highbank comes to us from Robert Falsone who was born in Highbank in 1911 and lived there with his family that included ten children. Robert Falsone has taken the time to share many of his early memories of Highbank that provide a facinating account of life in the early days in Highbank!  “My name is Robert Falsone and I was born in Highbank on July 24, 1911. The following are my recollections of our early life in Highbank. When I was thirteen years old, daddy hired someone to paint door frames of the house. When the painter was out for lunch, I took the bucket of paint and the brush, went behind the car garage and printed R F 13 years old. Everytime I would go behind the garage , I would look up to see 13 still on the wall. It seemed like I never would get to be 14”. “The old house was a single wall frame house with one window in each room. A netting was tacked on the walls from the ceiling to the floor. Mother, with the help of the neighbors, papered the walls. The paste for sticking the paper to the wall was made what looked like flour mixed with warm water and brushed on the back side of the colorful paper. While the paste was still wet it stuck firmly on the netting tacked on the walls. In the winter when the North wind blew strong, the wall paper would push out and the go back against the wall. It appeared the wall was breathing. In the flood of 1913, water stood four feet deep in the house. It seems that when the house was built, the builders forgot to put an opening in the ceiling to get in the attic. As the water began to enter the house, daddy took an ax to cut a hole big enough for us to get up in the attic. I was only two years old when the flood took place, but mother explained to me years later why there was still a hole in the ceiling”. “My father, Dominico Parrino, was the first farmer to buy a tractor and everybody told him he could not plow a good field with the plow and big tires on the tractor, but he did well. So the next year, many of the other farmers bought tractors and are still plowing the fields that way! Course now they have even better tractors. We all had gas pumps on the land for fueling the tractors. The gas was Mobile Gas and we had the Red horse with wings on the pumps. I remember that each winter, Dad would kill a hog on a cold day (we had no refrigeration) and we made a lot of Italian sausage and hams, which my dad smoked in a barrel and then stored them in coolers in Marlin”. “Many of the first Sicilians to arrive in Texas took jobs as farm laborers because this was what they were most familiar doing. Soon, enterprising immigrants began selling their produce in the markets and as they acquired capital, they opened small corner grocery stores. According to the Houston City Directory for 1907, 13% of all grocery stores in Houston were owned by individuals with Italian surnames. Damian Mandola’s grandfather, Vincent, and his great uncles, Frank and Giuseppe, were among those who opened such stores. Vincent’s was located in Houston’s near east side and stocked canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables and household supplies. But, as was common for many Italian grocery store owners, Vincent also sold Italian cheeses and deli meats, such as prosciutto, salami and pancetta. For the Italian immigrants who came to America in the early 1900s, food and cooking were (and remain for their descendants) essential components of social life. The immigrants who came to Houston maintained their culinary traditions, just as they did in such places as New York or Boston. However, the effect Italian immigrants had on Houston’s culinary landscape was more diffuse than in northeastern cities. Houston has never had a Little Italy, but scattered in neighborhoods throughout the city, Houston’s Italian groceries fostered the growth of small food empires. Damian recalls one man who parlayed his corner grocery into a pasta factory; another went door-to-door selling olive oil and cheeses. His own father started a meat packing business, which ultimately failed after an untimely accident.” “There was always a stove in the back of all the stores where the women would cook,” muses Frankie B., who recalls making Italian sausage in the back of his parents’ store. “Our grandmothers would cook these huge Sunday meals for 50 or 60 people; our friends couldn’t believe it.” It was only natural for some of the sons and daughters of grocery store owners to start serving the recipes of their parents in a cafe setting.

The Food of Italians In Texas

Texas Ultimate Italian Sub

Ingredients:

  • 1 large round loaf of Italin bread about 10″ in diameter
  • 1/2 lb. mortadella
  • 1/2 lb. capicola
  • 1/2 lb. genoa salami
  • 1/2 lb. prosciutto di parma
  • 1/3 lb. provolone cheese
  • 1 jar (16 oz) olive salad
  • 1 jar (7 oz) roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 1 jar (12 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • 1 jar (12 oz) mild banana peppers, sliced
  • balsamic vinegar

Directions: Carefully slice the loaf in half . Scoop out the insides (top and bottom) to make a large cavity for the filling. Begin layering and alternating the meats, cheese and condiments. It helps to lay everything out assembly line style and layer in order, making sure to get everything evenly distributed. Use all the meat and cheese. You’ll likely have extra condiments (these can be served on the side if you like). Once the loaf has been filled, put the top back on and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Put a heavy pan over the top to weigh it down and chill the sandwich for at least 4 hours to let the flavors come together. Unwrap, slice in wedges and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Italian Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1/4″ cubes
  • 1 cup zucchini, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 artichoke hearts, chopped (water packed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup egg whites (from a carton of Egg Beaters)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • cooking spray

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and garlic in oil for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and fold in artichoke hearts. In a bowl, whisk egg, egg whites, milk, black pepper, thyme and oregano. Add egg mixture, basil and mozzarella to vegetable mixture. Gently stir until eggs and mozzarella are evenly distributed. Coat an 8″ square pan with cooking spray. Pour in quiche mixture. Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes to set. Prego's Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Prego’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi With Shrimp

From Chef John Watt Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs Sweet Potato
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 4 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 cups Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 8 Jumbo Gulf Shrimp
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Handful of sage leaves

Directions: Roast whole sweet potatoes drizzled with olive oil. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 mins. Remove all the skin from the sweet potatoes. Place the peeled sweet potatoes in a food processor and mix to a rough texture. Add the flour, brown sugar, parmesan cheese and the eggs and continue to process until smooth. It should look and feel like a pizza dough; very elastic. Lightly dust flour over a wood countertop/cutting board. Separate the dough into five equal balls and begin rolling each ball out into a long thin string about 2 inches in thickness. Once all the dough balls have been rolled out, use a dough scraper/cutter to cut all five strings at once into 2 inch by 2 inch gnocchi. Lightly dust the cut gnocchi with flour and roll each gnocchi with a dinner fork to give them the traditional design. Heat a saute pan to medium high heat. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot add the chopped green onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add the jumbo shrimp and cook until pink. Add the chopped parsley and toss. In a separate saute pan; heat 4 tablespoons of butter. As the butter begins to foam around the edges add the gnocchi and sage. Toss and top with the shrimp.

And Desserts In the Sicilian Tradition……

Ricotta-Filled Zeppole

DOUGH

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

FILLING

  • 2 pounds of ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 12 Maraschino cherries

Directions: Bring water, butter and salt to a boil. When boiling add flour and stir until thoroughly mixed, for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and put into electric mixing bowl and cool for 10 minutes. Mixing at a low speed add 1 egg at a time allowing each egg to be absorbed. Put dough into a pastry bag. Cut 12 pieces of wax paper into 3-inch squares and lightly dust with flour. Pipe a doughnut shape onto each piece of paper. Heat oil to 350ºF in a deep pan. Carefully slide batter off the wax paper into the oil. Fry for 7 to 8 minutes turning every couple of minutes. Doughnuts should double in size. Allow to cool on absorbent paper. Slice horizontally. Mix ricotta, sugar and vanilla extract in another mixing bowl on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add chocolate chips and mix for 10 seconds. Put cream in pastry bag and fill center of each zeppole. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and place a cherry on top of each pastry.

Cannoli

Sweet Cheese Filling

  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons candied cherries, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Drain the ricotta in a colander placed over a large mixing bowl for about two hours at room temperature. Press the cheese with a spatula to release more whey. Discard the whey and transfer drained cheese from the colander to the mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, whip the cream in a small mixing bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Set aside. Beat the sugar and vanilla into the ricotta until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Add the cherries and chocolate chips. Cover and chill. Shells

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

To make the shells, sift the flour, sugar,and salt together into a large mixing bowl. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With a fork or your hands, mix in the milk. Continue mixing until you have a soft dough. Cut the dough in half. Roll out each half on a floured work surface to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Using a 3-1/2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough. Heat the oil to a depth of 4 inches in a deep saucepan or deep fryer until it registers 325°F on a candy thermometer. Wrap each dough circle around a metal cannoli tube, sealing overlapping dough with the beaten egg white. Fry in the hot oil until golden brown (about 4 minutes). Remove carefully and place on paper towels to drain and cool. To assemble: Fit a pastry bag with the largest tube or snip 1/2-inch off the corner of a resealable plastic bag. Pressing one finger over the tube opening or pinching the corner of the bag shut, spoon filling into the bag. Fill each cannoli tube with the filling. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 hour or until ready to serve. Makes about 30 cannoli.  

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/06/14/little-italy-new-orleans-style/Birmingham, Alabama’s “Little Italy” (jovinacooksitalian.com) West Virginia’s Little Italy Communities (jovinacooksitalian.com) Baltimore’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Western Pennsylvania’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Philadelphia’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Chicago’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Cleveland’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) New England’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Italian American Neighborhoods – Boston (jovinacooksitalian.com) Ybor City – Florida’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Little Italy – Manhattan (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/08/new-yorks-other-little-italies/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/15/little-italy-new-jersey-style/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/04/12/delawares-little-italy/ The “Little Italies” of Michigan (jovinacooksitalian.com) The Hill” St. Louis’ Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/05/24/indianas-little-italy-communities/


Little Italy in Chicago, 1909.

Italian immigrants to Chicago faced many drastic changes in their environments and way of life. The bustling new metropolis was very different from an Italian rural village. The mass of new Italian immigrants who entered the city in the late nineteenth century, primarily men from the small towns surrounding Palermo, Sicily were either single or had left their wives and children back in Italy. Frugality was essential. Most workers saved their wages to repay initial passage money, send funds to needy family members left behind or to purchase land in Italy.

In the summers many Italian laborers lived in railroad or mining work camps where food was provided by the padrone who recruited them. In the winter, workers returned to Chicago where they frequently lived cooperatively, sharing meals and kitchen chores.

Workers Sharing Living Spac

When possible, single men boarded with Italian families, a practice unknown in Italy. Boarding, freed men from the necessity of doing any of their own housework, while providing supplemental income for the families who housed them. Lodging and boarding continued in the Italian communities until immigration was curtailed by World War One. 

With time, many men had a new reason to economize. As months of saving stretched into years, most immigrants decided to settle permanently in the city, so passage money was put aside for wives, children and other relatives to come to the U.S. Eventually, family members joined the men.

While wages in Chicago exceeded those of Italy, the railway and street work at which many Italian men were employed, was intermittent and low paying. Garment work, done at home by Italian women, added only a meager amount to the family income. Italian laborers did much of the grueling ditch digging and manual labor which the growing city required. Women struggled to keep house in the cramped confines of tenement flats. Small flats of two to four rooms were common. Sinks and toilets were sometimes located in yards, halls or basements and water was unavailable when plumbing froze in winter. Basement and cellar flats were common due to the large number of homes below street level and “many a kitchen floor, the only playground for the children, was cold, damp and water-soaked.”

Confined to substandard tenement housing and severely restricted in employment opportunities, many Italian immigrant families took garment work into their homes and employed their children. The mother and her three eldest children in this picture earned a total of about two dollars a week—when work was available—around 1913, while the father sought day work on the street. (Library of Congress)

Settlement worker Edith Abbot reported that in tenement homes food was hung from the ceilings to keep it away from the rats. The kitchen sometimes doubled as sleeping space for family members or lodgers. As late as 1925, ice-boxes were uncommon on the Near West Side and window sills were often the best means available to keep perishable food cold. As city dwellers and renters, Italians lost the option of supplementing their diets with home-grown foods. Many made valiant efforts to garden in the minuscule backyards and on the fire escapes and porches of tenement homes, where tomatoes, peppers and parsley struggled for existence in the cramped spaces.

Cooking Classes at Hull House

Terese DeFalco, who grew up on the Near West Side, recalls that there was no room for gardening amidst the densely packed housing in her neighborhood. “Our garden was the alley,” she says. Most food was purchased and Italians spent a large proportion of their incomes on food. Under these conditions, lessons learned in Italy remained relevant. Diets consisting of bread, macaroni and vegetables remained the norm among Italian immigrant families. Homemade Italian bread, with its thick crust and heavy texture, provided bulk at the evening meal and stayed fresh long enough to be dunked in coffee the next morning. Working family members carried chunks of it to their jobs, along with peppers purchased from the numerous street vendors found in Italian neighborhoods or from neighborhood stores, which sold familiar Italian ingredients.

Phyllis Williams noted that one of the reasons Italians shunned the recipes taught in settlement cooking classes was that “Italians thought many of the dishes prepared were too expensive and would not satisfy hungry children.” In hot summer months, when putting on the stove would be unbearable in cramped tenement apartments, Rose Tellerino, born in 1899, remembered salads were the daily fare while macaroni was “all we ate” in the wintertime. Wine, usually made at home, continued to be drunk at meals and milk and water were not, much to the chagrin of the Hull House reformers.

The Italian communities of Chicago were enriched by a phenomenon all too rare in their towns of origin, voluntary associations. By the 1920’s the Italians in Chicago had church and school-oriented clubs and sodalities that worked at fundraising, as well as special-interest organizations, sponsored by the settlement houses. The Holy Guardian Angel and Our Lady of Pompeii served the Italian community. On the near Northwest Side, a varied community of Baresi, Sicilians and others grew up around the Santa Maria Addolorata Church. Perhaps the most colorful Italian sector was in the 22nd Ward on the city’s Near North Side. It was known as, “Little Sicily”, and this neighborhood was home to some 20,000 by 1920.

World War II changed everything for Italian Americans. It Americanized the second generation. The G.I. Bill opened up the first possibilities for a college education and the first opportunities to buy a new suburban house. Other government policies, such as urban renewal, public housing and the building of the interstate highway system combined to destroy their inner-city neighborhoods. First, was the building of the Cabrini-Green Housing Project, which destroyed the Sicilian neighborhoods in the Near North Side in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Then, came the construction of the expressway system on the near south, west and northwest sides which dislodged additional Italian families and institutions including many churches and schools.

Today, some 500,000 Italian-Americans, about the population of a medium-sized Italian city, live in Chicago. Though the group has been in the city for about a century, it maintains a lively array of civic, religious and cultural institutions and organizations that provide a sense of ethnic identification and recognition in a manageable area inside the larger metropolis. Because these institutions perform the functions of allocating recognition and ethnic identity, they will not die or fade quickly from the scene.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago and Jane Addams Memorial Collection

Taylor Street, in the Near West Side, became the hub of the Italian community, most notably, because of Jane Addams’ Hull House that was established to educate and help assimilate European immigrants and because of Mother Frances Cabrini, who started a school and founded two hospitals in the Italian community. Although parts of the Italian neighborhood were torn down when road construction and the University of Illinois at Chicago were completed in the 1960’s, numerous Italian and Italian American clubs and organizations helped maintain a strong sense of community.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, established in 1910 and the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame added more culture and heritage to the area. Major events include an Italian Street Festival in June and Taylor Street Festa Italiana in August. Italian food and regional specialties from the area’s restaurants, entertainment, merchandise from Italy and children’s activities are part of both celebrations. Festa di Tutti I Santi, a fundraiser for The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, is held in August.

Taylor Street is the main dining area in Chicago’s Little Italy, anchored with favorites like Pompei (1531 W. Taylor St.), opened by Sicilian, Luigi Davino, in 1909, Pompei has remained a family run business ever since, but don’t expect to find deep dish here: the pizza is still Sicilian style.

For a neighborhood specialty, stop at Al’s Beef (1070 W Taylor St.); Chicago’s well-known Italian beef sandwich was created here in 1938 and has grown from a humble depression era street food to a legendary Italian staple. Order yours with Italian sauce and eat it standing wide-legged and leaning over the counter.

There are many neighborhood grocers, but Conte Di Savoia (2227 W. Taylor St.) has been the neighborhood specialty market since 1948 and continues to serve the area.

Ferrara Bakery

Opened in 1908, Salvatore Ferrara’s Italian pastry legacy lives on today at Ferrara Bakery (2210 W Taylor St.), where the baked goods have been pretty well perfected over its century-plus existence. When Ferrara Bakery opened its doors over a hundred years, it was a staple in the Italian community of Chicago. Backed by a strong immigrant work ethic and an American public infatuated with pastries and confectionaries, Salvatore Ferrara opened a pastry shop on Taylor and Halsted Streets, with a candy shop located roughly a mile away on Taylor Street and Ogden Avenue. While the candy aspect of Ferrara’s business has boomed, distributing worldwide, the pastry shop maintains a more modest reputation. Forced to relocate due to the construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Original Ferrara Pastries resides in the old candy distributing facility at Taylor and Ogden.

The Food of Chicago’s Little Italy

If you’re craving deep dish, head about 15 minutes north of Sicilian Little Italy and pay a visit to Uno Pizzeria (29 E Ohio St.), home of the famous Chicago style pie.

Chicago pizza is a not your typical pizza. When Pizzeria Uno founders, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, invented it in 1943, they weren’t trying for true Italian. They believed Chicagoans needed something more substantial: deep dish pizza, which is more a casserole than a flatbread. It grew so popular that they opened a second location, Pizzeria Due, across the street in 1955.

The deep-dish pie spread throughout Chicago due to several pizza makers who left Uno. The first was Uno’s primary pizza chef, Alice Mae Redmond. It is said that Alice Mae was the one who developed Uno’s dough recipe. She left in the sixties, formed a partnership with three local businessmen, including cab drivers Fred Bartoli and Sam Levine, and opened Gino’s East. Gino’s has been through several changes in ownership, but still uses the same recipe at its thirteen locations.

Chicago’s Italian beef is a sandwich of thin slices of seasoned roast beef, dripping with meat juices, on a dense, long Italian-style roll, believed to have originated in Chicago, where its history dates back at least to the 1930’s. The bread itself is often dipped (or double-dipped) into the juices the meat is cooked in and the sandwich is typically topped off with Chicago-style hot giardiniera or sautéed green Italian sweet peppers. I posted a recipe for the Chicago Italian beef sandwich last July. You can see the recipe at https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/07/10/in-the-mood-for-a-really-great-italian-sandwich/

The Chicago style dog is a steamed poppy-seed bun with a Vienna beef hot dog hidden under relish, yellow mustard, onions, tomato, celery salt, hot peppers and a pickle spear.

 

UNO’S FAMOUS DEEP-DISH PIZZA

Recipe shared by Uno in celebration of the 65th anniversary of Uno’s Chicago-Style Pizza.

MASTER DOUGH RECIPE

Yield: one 20-ounce ball of dough to make one 12-inch Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon. sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn oil
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 12″ Deep-Dish Pizza Pan or Cake Pan

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast with water and sugar. Add the corn oil and blend. Add the flour and salt and mix thoroughly. If using a stand mixer, mix for 4 minutes at medium speed, until the dough is smooth and pliable. If kneading by hand, knead for 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand for two additional minutes. Add olive oil to a deep bowl. Place the dough ball into the bowl and turn it twice to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.* Let the dough rise for two hours. Do not punch it down. Spread and push the dough ball across the bottom of the deep dish pan and up the sides.

*At this stage, the dough can be put in the refrigerator and allowed to rise slowly overnight. Take the dough out of the refrigerator at least an hour before you are ready to assemble the pizza.

PEPPERONI DEEP-DISH PIZZA

  • 1½ cups tomatoes, ground
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, dried
  • 1 teaspoon basil, dried
  • 2 tablespoons Romano cheese, grated
  • 5 oz. part-skim, low-moisture mozzarella, sliced
  • 5 oz. provolone, sliced
  • 24 ea. pepperoni slices (about 2 oz.)

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, oregano, basil and Romano cheese. Set aside.

Lay the slices of mozzarella and provolone on top of the dough, overlapping the slices to cover all of the dough.

Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the cheese.

Dot the top of the tomatoes with the pepperoni.

Bake on the middle rack of a preheated 475° F. oven for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Allow the pizza to rest for 3-4 minutes before cutting and serving.

 

Eggplant Ravioli

Eggplant Ravioli is a specialty of Francesca’s On Taylor. Here is a similar recipe you can make at home. Francesca’s on Taylor features the earthy cuisine of Rome and the surrounding areas of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. Chicago Magazine notes, “It brings a new kind of abbondanza to an old Italian neighborhood.”

Pasta Dough

(Makes about 1 pound)

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 to 3 tablespoon lukewarm water

Directions:

Put the flour, eggs, salt and olive oil in a food processor.

Pulse several times to blend the ingredients.

Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough starts to come together.

Avoid adding too much water or the dough will be too sticky to roll.

It may still look dry but can be gathered into a ball.

Gather the dough into a ball and place on a floured surface.

Knead lightly, just until the dough is smooth.

Divide in half and keep one-half covered while you work with the other.

Filling

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil or oregano
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper

Marinara Sauce

Directions:

Saute garlic in olive oil over low heat about 2 minutes.

Add eggplant and dried herbs, cover and cook 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, cool, and pulse in food processor to finely chop.

Add remaining ingredients and fill ravioli.

Forming the Ravioli

Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness into strips about 4 inches wide.

Using a tablespoon, place mounds of filling 1-1/2 to 2-inches apart down the center of the dough.

Brush a little water across the top and bottom of the strip and between the mounds of filling.

Place another 4-inch wide strip of dough over the top.

Press the dough down around the mounds of filling to seal.

Cut the ravioli into rounds or squares using a ravioli cutter, pastry cutter or a knife.

Completed ravioli can be refrigerated for a few hours before cooking.

They can also be frozen by placing them on a cookie sheet and freezing until firm and then storing in a plastic bag for 2-3 months.

Cook ravioli in salted water until they rise to the top, 3-4 minutes for fresh ravioli or 9-10 minutes for frozen.

Serve with Marinara Sauce.

 

Maggiano’s Baked Ziti and Sausage Casserole

Maggiano’s Little Italy is an American casual dining restaurant specializing in Italian-American cuisine that is aimed at “re-creating the classic pre-World War II dinner house featuring family size portions”.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked ziti pasta
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausages (casings removed)

WHITE SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

CHEESE LAYER

  • 1 (1 lb) carton cream-style cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Paprika

Directions:

Set oven to 350 degrees. F. and grease a 3-quart baking dish.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until JUST tender (do not overcook the pasta as it will cook more in the oven). Place the cooked pasta in a large bowl.

Heat oil in a skillet; add in the sausage meat and cook until browned, remove to a plate.

For the white sauce; melt butter in a medium saucepan; add the onion, garlic and cayenne pepper if using) saute for about 3-4 minutes. Add in flour and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add in half and half cream; bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until thickened.

Remove from heat; add in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta in the bowl; mix with a wooden spoon.

In a medium bowl mix together the cottage cheese with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, egg and chopped parsley, then season with salt and lots of pepper.

Spoon HALF of the creamed ziti mixture into the prepared baking dish, then spread the cottage cheese mixture on top, then spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top of the cottage cheese mixture.

Sprinkle the cooked sausage meat on the top.

Top with mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle paprika on top.

Bake uncovered for about 30-35 minutes or until bubbly and hot.

Let stand about 5 or more minutes before serving.

 

Cannoli Cake

Similar to the Ferrara Bakery’s Famous Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

9 inch ungreased springform pan

For the Pan di Spagna (sponge cake): Have the following ingredients at room temperature at least 1 hour before baking:  6 eggs, lemon juice, orange zest and sherry.

Ingredients:

FOR  THE SPONGE

  • 6 whole eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup rum, for sprinkling the cake layers

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ricotta cheese
  • 6 tablespoons rum
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate, grated
  • 1/4 cup candied cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

TO MAKE FROSTING:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup toasted finely chopped almonds

Directions:

TO MAKE SPONGE LAYER

Separate the 6 eggs and set the egg whites aside.

Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in sugar, lemon juice, orange zest and sherry.

Beat until foamy.

Sift flour 3 times and fold into the egg yolk mixture gently but thoroughly.

Beat egg whites until foamy, add salt and beat until stiff but not dry.

Fold into yolk mixture.

Pour batter into a 9 inch ungreased springform pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.

TEST by pressing lightly with your fingertips, if the cake springs back at once, it is done.

Leave the cake in the pan to cool and invert on a wire rack.

Once the cake is completely cool, slice it into 3 layers.

Sprinkle layers with the 1/4 cup rum.

TO MAKE THE FILLING:

Crush ricotta very finely with a potato masher.

Add 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the 6 tablespoons rum, grated chocolate, chopped cherries and cinnamon.

Spread the ricotta filling over the sponge cake layers, using a 1/2 inch of filling on each layer.

Leave the top and sides of the cake plain.

TO MAKE FROSTING:

Cream butter with 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar.

Beat the 2 egg whites until stiff and gradually beat the remaining 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar into the egg whites.

Fold egg whites into the butter mixture and fold in 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Cover the sides and top of the cake with this frosting. Sprinkle nuts on the top and sides of the cake.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve it.


 

In one of its many forms, pizza has been a basic part of the Italian diet since the Stone Age. The earliest form of pizza was a crude bread that was baked beneath the stones of a fire. After cooking, it was seasoned with a variety of different toppings and used instead of a bowl or eating utensils to sop up broth or gravies. It is said that the idea of using bread as a plate came from the Greeks who ate flat round bread (plankuntos) baked with an assortment of toppings. It was eaten by the working man and his family because it was a thrifty and convenient food.

1st Century B.C.

In the translated version of “The Aeneid” written by Virgil (70-19 B.C.), it describes the legendary origin of the Roman nation, describing cakes or circles of bread:

“Beneath a shady tree, the hero spread

His table on the turf, with cakes of bread;

And, with his chiefs, on forest fruits he fed.

They sate; and, (not without the god’s command)

Their homely fare dispatch’d, the hungry band

Invade their trenchers next, and soon devour,

To mend the scanty meal, their cakes of flour.

Ascanius this observ’d, and smiling said:

“See, we devour the plates on which we fed.”

Our knowledge of Roman cooking derives mainly from the excavations at Pompeii and from a book by Marcus Gavius Apicius called “De Re Coquinaria.” Apicius was a culinary expert and from his writings, he provided us with information on ancient Roman cuisine. Apicius’  book contains recipes which involve putting a variety of ingredients on a base of bread (a hollowed-out loaf). The recipe uses chicken meat, pine kernels, cheese, garlic, mint, pepper, and oil (all ingredients of the contemporary pizza). The recipe concludes with the instruction “insupernive, et inferes” which means “cool in snow and serve!”

In the ashes after Mount Vesuvius erupted and smothered Pompeii on August 24, 79 A.D., evidence was found of a flat flour cake that was baked and widely eaten at that time in Pompeii and nearby Neopolis, The Greek colony that became Naples. Evidence was also found in Pompeii of shops, complete with marble slabs and other tools of the trade, which resemble the conventional pizzeria.

Roman Times

Pizza migrated to America with the Italians in the latter half of the 19th century. For many people, especially among the Italian-American population, the first American pizzas were known as Tomato Pie (as my parents always called pizza). Even in the present 21st century, present-day tomato pie is most commonly found in the Northeastern United States, especially in Italian bakeries in central New York. Tomato pies are built the opposite of pizza pies – first the cheese, then the sauce, and then the topping. This is exactly how I have always made pizza.

So let’s model our early inventors of this marvelous food, get creative and think about a new way you can use pizza dough. I would love to hear if you have a nontraditional way of using pizza dough.

Quick Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

This make-ahead dough has endless uses for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Ingredients:

3 packages (1/4 ounce each) quick-rise yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 3-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

Directions:

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, salt and whole wheat flour; set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat water and oil to 120°-130°; stir into dry ingredients.

With paddle attachment stir in enough white whole wheat flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Punch down dough; divide into three equal portions.
Use immediately or refrigerate overnight or freeze for up to 1 month.
Yield: 3 pounds (enough for 3 pizzas).
If using frozen dough, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Proceed as directed below.

Italian Spinach Braid

6 Servings

Ingredients:

1 loaf (1 pound) frozen whole wheat pizza dough, thawed
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon fennel seed
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white, beaten
Pizza sauce, optional

Directions:

Roll dough into a 12-in. x 9-in. rectangle. Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook turkey over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.

Transfer to a large bowl; add the spinach, cheeses, garlic, fennel seed, oregano and salt.

Spread mixture lengthwise down the center of dough. On each long side, cut 1-in.-wide strips 3 in. into center.

Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling. Pinch ends to seal and brush with egg white.

Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with pizza sauce if desired.

Scrambled Egg Turnovers

4 Servings

Ingredients:

4 eggs and 1 cup egg substitute beaten together, divided
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 portion (1 lb.) frozen whole wheat pizza dough, thawed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Set aside 2 tablespoons of the egg mixture. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir remaining egg mixture over medium heat until almost set.

Stir in mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil. Cook and stir until completely set.

Remove from the heat.

On a floured surface, roll dough into a 13-in. square. Cut into four squares; transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Spoon cooked egg mixture over half of each square to within 1/2 in. of edges.

Brush edges of dough with 1 tablespoon reserved egg.

Fold one corner over filling to the opposite corner, forming a triangle; press edges with a fork to seal. Cut slits in top.

Brush with  remaining egg; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Swiss Turkey Stromboli

4 Servings

Ingredients:

3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 portion (1 lb.) frozen whole wheat pizza dough, thawed
3 slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese
6 ounces sliced deli turkey
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water

Directions:

In a large nonstick skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in oil until tender. Stir in mustard; set aside.

On a floured surface, roll dough into a 15-in. x 10-in. rectangle.

Transfer to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

Layer the cheese, mushroom mixture and turkey lengthwise over half of dough to within 1/2 in. of edges.

Fold dough over filling; pinch seams to seal and tuck ends under.

Combine egg white and water; brush over dough. Cut slits in top.

Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Whole Wheat Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns (Bread Machine). Photo by SunnyZ

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Take your 1 pound package of pizza dough out of the refrigerator and let it warm up to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Sprinkle some flour onto a flat, clean board or counter top.

Take the pizza dough out of the package and place it on the surface you floured. Divide it into eight balls. For large hamburger buns, divide the dough into six.

Brush each dough ball with olive oil.

Place the balls of dough onto the cookie sheet with a space between each one. Cover the cookie sheet with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 20 minutes.

Turn on your oven and preheat it to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

After 20 minutes remove the towel or plastic wrap and place the cookie sheet into the oven.

Bake the hamburger buns for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are golden. Check them after 15 minutes to make sure they are not getting too brown, as some ovens bake hotter than others.

Let the hamburger buns cool on a rack and then slice each bun in half horizontally.

Since I prefer to make my own hamburger buns from whole wheat dough, I purchased a burger baking pan from King Arthur.

Individual Pie and Burger Bun Pan

 



Travel & Lifestyle

Dreamer in a wild world

Selbstheilungswege

Kostenlose Selbsthilfereihe mit verschiedenen Themengebieten, Podcast, Gedichten, Videos und Musik

La bibliothèque de Sev

Chroniques livresques et élucubrations littéraires

Jhilli's Culinaireculture

Influence of different cultures & countries on food of each other.

Travel and Hike with PCOS

Rollercoaster ride of life

Tips from Sharvi

Tips to make your daily life easier!

My German Table

German comfort food for the soul

TaraLynns Eden

Cats, Dogs, Food, Exercise, Health & Beauty, Meditation and of course AMAZON!!! Happy!!!

mumsinreallifecouk.wordpress.com/

Just two mums sharing our experiences

4 Spatulas

Delicious Recipes From My Kitchen To Yours!

Keto For Health

Fitness and Health Through Keto Diets

Moda-Creative thinking

Moda-Creative thinking

capturingminnesota

Minnesota, Grilling, Smoking, Music and Beer

Eat My Street

Join in the joie de vivre

Elas Way of Life

low calories food and recipes

Gringirls

Two girls one trip

Matilde Mbulo

amazon.com/author/matildembulo

Ally's Notebook

Thoughts To Share

Listen Italy

Daily news from Italy, in English

LET'S TALK ABOUT IT

I'm here to talk about it nothing is off limits from fashion, food, health, music, relationships, sex and even my life.

Adolfo's Blog

Nature Lover, Gardening Enthusiast, Traveller, Photography

The Wacky Spoon

~ A Sustainable Living Blog ~

Myfashunpassion. Com

Fashion, Beauty, Food, Interior decor and Lifestyle Photos

3...2...1...BAKE!

Baking - Recipes - Fun

Katie Writes Blog

Style, Real Talk & a little Sparkle

Considering

"Important and lasting beliefs or ideas that are shared by the members of a culture about that which may be good or bad, or desirable or undesirable"

The New Vintage Kitchen

A Vermont innkeeper's collection of reimagined kitchen classics

The Forgotten Muse

Musings from a Bohemian at heart about life, art, writing, and whatever else comes to mind.

Popsicle Society

It's all about you

Sista Soul, #SistaSoul, #SistaSoulWorld, #SistaSoulHappenings

#SistaSoul, #Abuse, #Art, #Artist, #Business, #Body, #Diet, #Fireplaces, #Food, #Gardens, #Health, #Houses, #Media, #Music, #NauralMedicine, #Recipes, #Self, #SocialMedia, #Vocals, #Writing

The Youthful Traveller

Young, Independent and ready to collect moments

Adi's Wings

Living with A Mental Illness 🖤

Little Irish Sweetheart

I'm 5'1 and Irish... He calls me 'Sweetheart'

kelleysdiy

Where Creativity and Imagination Creates Wonderful Ideas for Your Home!

Gold Recipes

Gols Recipes

Tammy's Reading/Writing Life

A mother, wife, writer, teacher, coach, book fairy, and runner that has random thoughts about lots of topics!

Zach’s Scope

lifestyle blog

Book 'Em, Jan O

Ghosts, Tall Tales & Witty Haiku!

%d bloggers like this: