Italian traditions don’t come and go. That’s why they’re traditions, and one way or the other, we figure out how to preserve them and pass them along to the next generation. When my mom passed away, she took her “grustoli” recipe with her — almost! My wife at that time, the former Marilyn Chao of Roseland’s Tea Garden Chinese Restaurant family (Fenger High class of January 1967), took the time to work with my mother, Angelina, as she baked a batch, and wrote down a complete recipe.
My family and many others in Roseland know this traditional Italian treat as “grustoli,” though it’s most commonly referred to as crostoli in Italy. Regional variations include cenci, farfallette, frappe, nastri, sfrappole and chiacchiere.
They have been a treat for Italians for ages and there are a couple of women that I’m aware of who have made it a point to make grustoli for special occasions. Mary Ellen Magnabosco Voras-Craig and Gina Magnabosco (no relation) both continue to make friends and influence people with their delicious grustoli.
Gina bakes her grustoli to share at church and with her family and friends, and at various feasts celebrated throughout the year by the Veneti nel Mondo. A number of times. Gina has favored me with my own container of grustoli as a “thank you” for my continuing efforts at keeping our Italian heritage alive through writing this column.
Mary Ellen’s grustoli baking skills are renowned not only among her family and close friends, but also among the fortunate members of the Spaghetti-Os Roselandite social club.
Now, on to the real “dough” of this month’s column. After Mary Ellen surprised everyone in attendance at Traverso’s following the Spaghetti-Os bocce tournament (which my team won by one point, I’m proud to say), I thought “What would be a good way to say thanks to her and Gina for their kind sharing of their baking efforts?” It occurred to me that I could do that by spotlighting their baking prowess in this month’s issue.
Mary Ellen’s grustoli skills came from her mother, who got the recipe from her mother. For years she toiled for about seven hours, making the grustoli by hand. Now, she has cut her work time down to five hours by making use of a Kitchenaid mixer with its pasta roller attachment. You see, rolling the dough has always been the really hard part of making grustoli. Even though the job was made easier by the hand pasta maker Mary Ellen’s mother, the former Mary Fabris, bought in Italy in 1960, the mixer attachment made it easier still. Yes, there is still a time commitment, but you should expect that for such a delicacy.
Mary Ellen is often asked to share her grustoli recipe, and she does so gladly. She does point out that she has shared it about 30 times over the years, and no one has ever made a batch! Yes, it is a time consuming project, but so was the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
The following recipe is not only my Christmas present to my readers, but also a challenge to compliment and thank Mary Ellen and Gina for maintaining this wonderful culinary tradition.
Mary Ellen Craig’s Grustoli recipe
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 egg yolks
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sour cream
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
(Mary Ellen suggests Ceresota flour and Butcher Boy corn oil)
Sift flour and baking powder together in large glass bowl, making a well.
In another bowl, beat eggs until fully blended, the add salt, vanilla, and sour cream, blending well.
Pour egg mixture into flour well slowly, mixing together until you form a soft dough ball. Knead well until smooth and firm. Add flour as needed.
Cover dough ball and let stand for one hour. Divide dough into four parts. Flatten out by hand and feed it through the widest setting on the pasta machine. Continue to feed it through at narrower settings until you achieve the desire thickness.
You’ll end up with several long strips of dough. Cut with fluted cutter into narrow strips. Cut a slit into middle of each strip and pull ends through to make bowtie. Lay them out onto cookie sheets and keep covered till you can fry them all at once.
Heat oil in a large frying pan and then fry the dough for 10 to 12 seconds on each side, or until golden brown. Drain and stack in layers in a large aluminum pan, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Leftover dough or a second batch can be frozen until needed for another baking session.
St. Anthony’s Annual Dinner Dance
The St. Anthony’s dinner dance was held during Columbus Day weekend. It was a great success, with more 120 attendees dancing the night away to great music by Spirit Band. The dance committee consisted of Louise Della Betta, Louann Sola Pretto and myself. As members of the committee, we were asked to draw the winning tickets for the big raffle. The prizes for $1,000 and $500 went to unknown winners. As the newest committee member, I picked the winners of the third ticket for $250 that Fr. Mark Krylowicz had to read. It was a great surprise and very funny as Fr. Mark had to read the names of his parents, Louise and Michael Krylowicz, as the winners!
Contact me at 11403 SS. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or firstname.lastname@example.org