Bravo to Salvatore Sciacca, Executive Director and Founder the Chicago Italian American Professionals (CIAP) for holding a first-of-its-kind and delicious event to celebrate the Sicilian Fig Cookie called cuccidati. The First Annual La Festa dei Cuccidati was the idea of Michael A. Benedetto, a Dupage County attorney, created to recognize individuals who have preserved the tradition of making Cuccidati as well as highlighting local bakeries that still produce it. All proceeds from the event went to Casa Italia.
Cuccidati is a traditional Sicilian Christmas cookie. It is a crumbly, butter pastry dough filled with a rich and sweet filling of figs, honey, nuts and spices. Twenty-five home cooks and bakeries brought their best cuccidati to compete for the best in Chicagoland. Well known Italian bakeries such as D’Amato’s, Scafuri, Allegretti’s, Palermo’s and Sicilia Bakery sent their best cuccidati to be judged and consumed. Each home cook brought two dozen cuccidati cookies for the judges and attendees to sample.
The event was held December 17 in the beautiful Chandelier Room of Casa Italia in Stone Park. The mood was festive as over 75 attendees walked around tasting each cookie while sipping on coffee and Prosecco. Michael Benedetto gave a short talk written by Italian language instructor Giovanna Dimetros on the origin and history of Cuccidati. Paul Basile, Editor-in-Chief, Fra Noi Magazine, was on hand to discuss their new beautiful book, Evviva La Festa!, documenting the history of Italian feasts around metropolitan Chicago. After the judging, Mr. Benedetto and his daughter Carla Benedetto demonstrated how to make cuccidati to a group of engaged and experienced home cooks.
Five judges were handpicked for the event based on their experience eating Cuccidati since childhood. The judges sampled each cookie, wrote notes, and conferred in a back room to vote and pick the winner for each category. Judging is not an easy task as each cookie recipe is unique and Italians take pride in their family’s traditional Cuccidati recipe. The winners were:
- Best Overall Homemade Cuccidati went to Maria Sciacca for overall combination of taste and style. Her delicious cookies were shaped into symbols of Christmas such as a wreath, cradle, and the letter J for Jesus.
- Best Tasting Homemade Cuccidati went to Cara Cipolla Kretz. The recipe for the delicious cookie can be found at her website www.homemdaeitaliancooking.com
- Best Traditionally Decorated Homemade Cuccidati went to Theresa Rubino.
- Most Creative Homemade Cuccidati went to Marilyn Dattilo for her gluten-free version.
- Best Overall Local Bakery was a tie between Allegretti’s and Sicilian Bakery.
- Most Traditional Local Bakery went to Sicilia Bakery
- Best Homemade Local Bakery went to Scafuri’s.
- Best Overall Internet Purchased Cuccidati: MamaMias.com from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
- Best Homemade Tasting Internet Purchase went to KathysConfections.com of Fredonia, New York.
CIAP is an Italian-American networking organization dedicated to promoting Italian business, culture, language and lifestyle. Founded in 2014, CIAP already enjoys great success with more tahn 1500 members, and holding over 20 events. To attend more of CIAP’s fun networking events in 2017, please see their website www.chicagolanditalians.com.