Antoinette’s Memories of Holiday Time in Wilmerding
Italian-American traditions like holiday dinners have changed over time. Part of this is due to the local environment where our ancestors settled. The availability or scarcity of certain food items caused them to adapt their cuisine and celebrations. Another factor is that as the descendants intermarry with members from other communities the cuisine is sometimes altered and changed to suit the tastes of the current generation.
On Sunday, September 13th, 2015 Antoinette and I discussed some of her memories of holiday gatherings and foods used in her family. While there are some similarities to the way our branch of the Serrapede family celebrated in Brooklyn, as described in Posting 15a, there are also many differences. Here are some of the ways Antoinette’s family celebrated the holidays.
One of Antoinette’s favorite places to go during Lent was Angie’s Pizzeria on Middle Avenue in Wilmerding. Angie Bacco (nee Conti) was descended from Italian immigrants who were born in Agropoli.
During Lent they offered a special fish fry. Other specialties customers ordered during lent were the Spinach Calzone or Anchiove Pizza.
Angie’s Pizzeria is now under the management of a different family but is still in the same location.
Antoinette’s mother learned how to cook Italian food from her mother-in-law. She made a red clam sauce on Christmas Eve. Antoinette told me that this was part of their traditional meal during the holiday season. Her Uncle Toots (Louis)started making an antipasto salad at some point which is now a part of the traditional holiday meal, too.
Now Christmas Eve dinners are held at the house of Antoinette’s nephew. She makes the same red clam sauce her Mom taught her how to make.
During Easter time, a specialty called Pizza Rustica was available in Wilmerding. It was also known as “Ham Pie.” Some of the ingredients that topped the pizza crust were prosciutto, salami, and ricotta cheese.
Is anyone else getting hungry thinking about a slice of Pizza Rustica?
Since Wilmerding is located inland the early Italian immigrants living there did not have access to the abundance of seafood available to those living closer to the coastline. Clams would be one of the easier seafoods one could buy while octopus, squid and shrimp would have been more costly. This is why the Serrapede family in Brooklyn celebrated Christmas Eve with a variety of seafoods while the Serrapere family in Wilmerding had a simpler seafood meal.
Other foods such as pizza and calzones had more in common with only minor variations created in each region. This is because ricotta cheese and certain meat products were more widely distributed and easier to purchase.
Note: Serrapere is a variation of the surname Serrapede.
Previous Postings on this topic
15a-Station Break: Sunday Afternoon Dinner in an Italian-American household
15b-Serrapere Family in Wilmerding: Pleased to meet you!