Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Almighty PIZZELLE

At this time of year, the almighty Pizzelle flourishes across the dessert tray of many Italian families. We all recognize them immediately: a flat, round-shaped cookie, almost resembling a waffle in some sense. Yet different..

When one sees this cookie, its appearance creates a bit of a façade regarding its ingredients: after all, how much variation could go into a cookie that always seems to look like the same thing, when found in so many different families’ dessert lineups? They must all do theirs the same way, right? WRONG.

The ones that I had seen most prominently when growing up were the plain kind (more commonly known as “vanilla”), as well as an anisette-flavored kind, and I think on some occasions I’d learned that there was a lemon variant out there. However, in recent years I was introduced to a chocolate version that one of my cousins in the Ghione family likes to make. That was neat to see, because I only remember my mother doing the vanilla ones (or anisette, which look the same).

Over the years, I’ve always tried to take a moment to ask the baker what it was about their personal Pizzelles that they felt made theirs different from the others that were made out there. I don’t want to threaten the security of anyone’s family recipe secrets out there (you know how protective we Italians are of our recipes), but the answers that I got (which were few and, even provided conditionally, hehe) included all kinds of things from using a specific Pizzelle iron type, to totally ELIMINATING certain ingredients which others believe are mandatory to use in the make-up of the Pizzelle, to all kinds of little nuances. The art of making these cookies really does have an underground chain of customizations which, even though the cookie may LOOK the same as the Pizzelle type you know and love from your family, there just might be something different about that one at a friend’s or other family member’s.

There are also variations as to how that cookie should be, texturally- some believe it should be crunchy, so you can dip it in your coffee. Others believe it should be a softer cookie instead. There really are a lot of different ways to spin a Pizzelle! But at the end of the day, the important part is this: as long as you made some time to make some for the Holiday season, you’re good to go..


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lou Robino

I would like to take a moment to ask all of our readers to say a prayer for one of my extended family members, Lou Robino. Lou was born at Squirrel Run in 1915, and up until recently, was doing extremely well for a man his age.

In recent weeks his health has begun to decline, and for the sake of the Squirrel Run Community out there, I would like to ask for you all to think of him and his family during this time.

For those of you who attended the Winterthur Exhibit that Frank and I were a part of in 2010, Lou was there to be a part of it all as well. His photo even made the Delaware News Journal. I have attached another photo of him with this article.

I have spoken with Lou many times about Squirrel Run, and taken many notes from him to help in retaining all of those wonderful memories. At a time when pretty much all of the "old timers" in my family from Squirrel Run have passed on, Lou gave me yet one more opportunity to learn some more about that magical place.

This one's for you, Lou.........

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Last Chance To See It Before It's Gone

To all of our readers who are familiar with the locale surrounding the Squirrel Run and Hagley areas, I wanted to send this update out: I am trying to remember, in my quickly-aging mind, who it was that once told me that their family lived in (or near) the home shown in the pics attached. I have an idea who it might have been who told me that story, but until I have confirmation I will wait to share it. Nevertheless, I am sad to report that the home in the attached images is doomed to be knocked down. I was in the area today for some other events, and while passing the home I noticed the sign adjacent to it which read, "Demolition Plan". I guess I shouldn't be surprised, knowing that this home has been in this particular condition for quite some time. However, I was wondering if the DE Historical Society was going to pick it up to save, or if maybe the Childrens' Hospital located behind it would find a way to leverage the existing structure. Apparently not the case.

I did not have time to read the sign to see what the future holds for this lot- however, I am very happy that I was able to capture some images of it before it was too late. For those of you who read our blog and enjoy the topics we cover, I would greatly appreciate any comments or stories that are remembered regarding this home. These old pieces of local history are fading fast.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Remembering September 23, 1923

Today marks the 88th anniversary of the gathering of “Tutti i Giusvallini” on the grounds of what is now the Hagley Museum. Those who still remember this gathering, and others like it, all share many of the same sentiments …. wonderful memories of family and friends during a time when their little community took care of itself and neighbors watched out for each other. We hope that some of these values continue through the generations yet to come. We the younger generations have a lot to live up to, and we are fortunate to call these strong people our family.

For those of us whose families were a part of this iconic image (and event) from 88 years ago, we are happy to take a moment to honor them today. Not only are they remembered for being a part of the historic photo, but for all that they endured while coming to this Country from their homeland. Many left the last of their family behind, never to be seen again, while others lost family members who had survived the trip, but died after arriving here. The banner photo you see above perhaps symbolizes the bravery and determination of our ancestors to make a better life for themselves and their children. We would like to believe that we and our own children are an extension of those peoples' dreams realized.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The July 4th Tomato Challenge.

When I was a boy, my grandfather had an extensive garden. My sister and I saw it so regularly that we eventually became desensitized by it. We figured everyone must have a garden so extravagant, with such a variety of fruits and vegetables, since Grandpop Salvo made it all look so easy.
It wasn't until I was much older that I learned about one of the little challenges my grandfather would have running "behind the scenes" of his lavish garden. My father told me one day that Grandpop Salvo and his gardening cronies had a yearly challenge running amongst them. The challenge was simple in nature, yet a pretty involved task: have a red tomato either on the vine, or picked, by 4th of July..
At face value, it doesn't sound like much of a challenge. But anyone who has ever grown a tomato plant knows there's more to it than meets the eye. Yeah, tomato plants are pretty self-sufficient and all, however they require a great deal of watering, monitoring, and even protection from the local wildlife! Therefore, anyone who thinks this challenge is for the faint of heart is definitely missing some facts.
This is my second year of growing tomatoes myself, and last week I put word out to my gardening family members that the 4th of July was right around the corner, and I reminded all of them about Grandpop Salvo's tomato challenge. This year, my Aunt Alma seems to be the one in the target audience to have the first red tomato. It's a CHERRY tomato, but hey- we can't get picky now, can we?
I hope that this article sparks some fond memories for our readers. If your family follows the same tradition, we'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bertù ‘d Tzunìn: ur cowboy ‘d Prati Proia

Though the Giusvallini that settled in the Wilmington, Delaware area around the turn of the 20th century represent the largest group of immigrants from Giusvalla to settle in one place in the United States, there were certainly others who sought their fortunes in other places throughout the country. The Pizzorno family settled in the Buffalo, New York area, there were a handful of Baccino, Perrone and Rabellino immigrants who went to San Francisco, the descendants of Silvio Baccino went to the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania .... just to name a few. The experiences of these Giusvallini immigrants surely differed greatly from our gang of ancestors who worked for the DuPont family in the powder mills or went into the mushroom business.

Perhaps no experience could have been more different than that of Bartolomeo “Bertù” Carlo Zunino. Bertù first came to the United States in 1907. Like most of his friends from back home, he arrived through Ellis Island. However where most went directly to “Henry Clay Factory, Wilmington, Delaware,” Bertù “went west.” In those days, the desert towns in White Pine County, Nevada offered two means of livelihood: ranching or copper mining. What attracted Bertù to the Wild West remains a mystery, but local records reveal the names of several Italians, so perhaps word of opportunity in that part of the U.S. had come to the Giusvalla area and the romantic notion of the cowboy lifestyle appealed to young Bertù? Certainly many a young giusvallino had gone to South America in pursuit of a similar lifestyle as a gaucho. What is known for a fact is that Bertù went to Nevada and worked for a local rancher named William N. McGill on the Cleveland Ranch in Spring Valley, which at the time was the largest and most successful cattle ranch in the area. Bertù became a real life cowboy, tending the cattle on the vast Cleveland Ranch on horseback. In 1915, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen and later that year returned to Italy for a few years to care for his aging father. When Bertù returned to the U.S. in 1920, he went back to Spring Valley and with the small inheritance he received from his father, he was able to invest as a partner in his own ranch.

During the 1920s, Bertù and his friend Antonio Persico operated a small cattle ranch just outside of Spring Valley. Bertù must have been a solitary man, he never married and spent the remainder of his years quietly tending cattle on his patch of desert among the vast Nevada wilderness. The cowboy from località Prati Proia died on his little ranch during the 1940s and was laid to rest in the dusty ground that was once roamed by the native Shoshone, old cowpokes, Mormon settlers and stagecoach drivers ....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Matteo Letters.

This article is for all of our readers out there who not only share in our Giusvallin background, but in our pack-rat-type tendencies as well…

In January of this year, I needed to go out to our shed in the back yard for some necessary cleanup and reorganization. This shed came to our home around 1999-2000, and over the years it has amassed quite a variety of different, shall I say, “inventory”.

A couple of years back, my mother provided me with a large stack of old family photos, many of which at the time did not have corresponding names to go with the faces. With the help of Frank Rosaio and his family, almost every single photo was miraculously identified. Some of those photos even exist in the archives of this website today. The reason I am making reference to this event is because at the same time those photos were forwarded to me, it was also explained to me that there were other family relics still stored “somewhere” (and in my family, ‘somewhere’ is a pretty big place). Among those relics were supposed letters that my Aunt Theresa (Tortarolo) Angelone had received from friends and family over the years, all of the way up until her death in 1983.

Returning back to my shed-cleaning experience, the event prompted me to have to move quite a few items around, and also throw some things away. The necessity of having to do these various tasks forced me to have to move some things around which had not been touched in quite some time. Some of the items in that shed were most likely even brought in around the timeframe of 1999-2000, put down in what was to be a “temporary” location at that particular moment, and now here, 11-12 years later, they are just being touched once again..

As I moved the various boxes, tools, and other miscellany around, a box made of white cardboard managed to fall, which I had not remembered touching or even bumping to make it do so. As I approached the box, I noticed that the side that was facing me was the bottom of the box, and its contents had spilled onto the floor behind an old sewing machine. I was somewhat frustrated when it happened, as my job at that point in the shed was to be cleaning up, and this box spilling over just added to the “cleaning up” part of my work out there. I sighed and leaned over the sewing machine to see just how much extra work I was in for. When I looked down, I noticed what appeared to be a small stack of envelopes, white with red and blue borders all of the way around them. They were basically all face-down, and although I could see some writing on them, it wasn’t clear enough for me to see the details of the writing. It only took me a second, however, to realize that the stack of letters, lying on the floor of this dirty old shed, were no doubt letters sent to someone in my family from Europe. As I bent down and picked them up, I immediately started to see names on the backs of them like BAGNUS, GIORDANO, BROCCOLI, and one that really jumped out at me: TORTAROLO. The names I was seeing corresponded to the return addresses on the back, and as I flipped over the envelopes, they all read: “Theresa Angelone”, “Mrs. Theresa Angelone”, “Arthur and Theresa Angelone”. I just stood there, speechless. The missing letters my mother had told me about had just surfaced.
I began opening the letters right there in the shed, and was so astonished by what I was seeing. There were so many different types of formats: handwritten on regular paper, handwritten on decorative letter paper, handwritten on tissue-like paper, typed on regular paper, there were so many different features to all of them. Some had the same type of handwriting from the start of a letter to its end, some had different types of handwriting all found within the same letter, it was such an incredible moment. As I looked over all of the letters and started to put them in some type of organized fashion (even if they’d been organized in the box, they certainly didn’t stay that way once they’d hit the floor), one name really started to jump out at me. One letter, after another, after another, the backs read TORTAROLO, MATTEO e ENRICHETTA.

For our readers who are not already aware, it is the lineage of the Tortarolo family that makes Frank and I part of the same family. When Theresa’s parents, Valentino and Luigia, both died from the flu of 1918, Theresa came to live with my Salvo family, and her 2 siblings, Egidio and Josephine, went to live with Frank’s family. Theresa went on to marry Arthur Angelone, and to be honest, it wasn’t until I was much older that I’d learn more about her Tortarolo lineage, and, more specifically, its connection to my own family history.

The “Matteo letters” (as Frank and I came to call them while translating them) highlight events and family information from the period of 1962 to 1970 (the image that accompanies this post is from a letter that came from Matteo in 1976; however, only the envelope remains). They not only contain general correspondence between Theresa and her family back in Italy, but they also provide amazing details regarding ‘known’ family members, as well as relatives yet to be identified in the family tree as well! The letters were truly an invaluable find.

So, for those of you who find yourself saving various pieces of documentation without being able to justify to yourself why you are doing it: maybe it’s because God is asking you to put them aside for someone else….