The Virgilios began making St. Joseph rolls in the early 1950s, for the Feast of Saint Joseph, and today, they make them year round. Back then, there were so many families that celebrated Saint Joseph traditions that even as young kids, Joe and all his cousins had to hurry to the bakery after school to help their grandfather fill the St. Joseph roll orders. Now the bread is made with state of the art equipment but in his grandfather’s day it was all made by hand. Joe smiled thinking about how his grandfather would love today’s mixing and baking machines. I went home with a camera-full of stories and bag full of Joe’s bread, both generous, and much-appreciated gifts.
Artists-in-the-Kitchen Maria Cracchiolo, and her parents Domenic and Nina Damico, demonstrate how to create beautiful bread in shapes symbolic of Saint Joseph and inspired by nature. Watch as Maria, Nina, and Domenic artfully shape angels, a carpenter’s saw, San Giuseppe scroll, Saint Joseph sun, snails, flowers, butterflies, grapes, and more.
Saint Joseph altar bread is available by special order at Caffe Sicilia. Call to place your order at (978) 283-2345.
REPOSTING FROM 2015 AS THE POST IS GETTING LOTS OF INTEREST THIS WEEK 🙂
Joe Virgilio Makes Saint Joseph Rolls is a wonderful addition to Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project. So many thanks to Joe for taking time from his busy work day to allow filming! Highlights include Joe sharing stories about the early days working alongside his grandfather and cousins, when the thousands of rolls needed for Saint Joseph’s Day were made by hand.
Early morning and friends and family gather at the Groppo home. Nina has laid out trays of warm bread and pastries, a medley of fresh fruit, and vats of homemade ricotta steaming on the stovetop to greet the pasta-makers. Everyone pitches in, from the very youngest to the very oldest, men and women, boys and girls. The house is overflowing with helpers. The time goes by way too fast and in a few short hours, racks and racks of pasta are drying, in preparation for the March 19th Feast of San Giuseppe.
At another pasta-making station, Grace and Frank Sciortino made a special batch of maccarruna pasta, just for the helpers. After all the pasta-making mess was cleaned up, Nina served heaping bowls of maccarruna topped with homemade canned tomato sauce, from tomatoes grown in her garden last summer. A delicious lunch was had by all and as I looked around the room at the many generations gathered around the table, I thought of the memories being created from this very special community tradition of honoring Saint Joseph each year at the welcoming home of the Groppo Family. Happy San Giuseppe Pasta-making Day!
St. Joseph pasta-making day began with Franco and the gentlemen heading over to Gloucester Fraternity to make huge batches of pasta dough with the Fraternity’s new mixer machine. Thanks were given to the club’s Mario for making it possible. Back at the Groppo’s kitchen, Nina and Fina were making steamy hot vats of homemade ricotta on the stovetop to serve for breakfast to all the helpers. Friends and family arrived in waves throughout the day and all were there to lend a hand making pasta.
After all the St. Joseph Day pasta that was needed was made, an extra batch of pasta was made for we pasta-makers. Nina heated up her divinely delicious tomato sauce that she had canned over the summer, with tomatoes from her garden. We had a wonderful lunch feast and as I looked around the table at the many generations gathered, I thought of the memories being made that will be cherished by all, created from this very special community tradition of honoring Saint Joseph each year at the welcoming home of the Groppo Family.
Last batch, fini!
When you get to spend the day with these wonderful friends. Lots of photos to post later ❤
Enza and Layla
Maria and her Mom and Dad, Nina and Domenic, at Caffe Sicilia are now taking orders for the special Saint Joseph altar bread, zeppole, sfinci, ravioli, and cassata cake, and they can be ordered by calling 978-283-7345.Can’t wait for Caffe Sicilia’s ricotta-filled St. Joseph Day doughnuts, or sfinci in Sicilian ❤
Last night we strained and bottled (and sampled!) out-of-this-world-delicious limoncello. The first time I had ever tasted limoncello that I found to be enjoyable was while filming at the Groppo Family’s Feast of Saint Joseph celebration. Nina serves her icy cold homemade limoncello in the traditional tiny glasses and I think it is so much better tasting than commercially bottled preparations. The flavor of her limoncello is intensely lemony fresh, sweet, and tart all at the same time, without the alcohol burn on the way down.
The limoncello doesn’t look that appetizing in the pre-bottled stage.
As part of the film’s sequence on Feast preparations, Nina and friends Cathy Gunn, Kathy Pratl, and Jane Beddus very graciously agreed to allow me to film during the different steps of limocello-making, along with inviting me to participate and make my own batch! Nina and her family and friends have been so wonderfully helpful and accommodating with Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project and I will be eternally grateful. Making limoncello with these sweet ladies has been so much fun and a wonderful reminder of the delight and joy that comes from sharing a project with friends.
Catherine Gunn, Nina Groppo, Janer Beddus, and Kathy Pratl
After bottling, we sampled each other’s batches, the reason being that they were all made in slightly different ways; several types of lemons were used, some had more vodka, and some had more simple syrup. Kathy pointed out that the because the recipe is so super simple, the only real error in making would be if you were to grate the lemons to close to the pith, which would make the beverage bitter.
Needless to say, we had a ball sampling all, as well as indulging in the beautiful array of cookies and treats prepared by Nina. To see more photos visit Jane Beddus’s FB page here.
The sieve we found to be the easiest and most effective for straining the pulp was a simple wooden flour sifter, used with cheese cloth, that Nina had purchased in Italy (see below in the Vine).
Yesterday, March 19th, The Feast of San Giuseppe was celebrated in Siciliain-American homes throughout Gloucester. Filming concluded last night for Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project at the home of Nina and Frank Groppo.
I arrived shortly after 9:00 am to the Groppo home, already packed full of friends and family prepping and cooking and organizing the house to accomadate the multitudes expected. For fear of missing any wonderful moments, I was sorry to leave even briefly, but I needed to pick up the exquisite Sicilian cassata cake created by Maria, Nina, and Domenic at Caffe Sicilia.
Returning to the Groppos ~ After days of preparation, cooking was in high gear, with enormous pots of Saint Joseph sauce simmering, vats of oil bubbling, and everyone working at their jobs. One of the most amazing aspects of the Groppo feast preparations is that no one person is giving orders; everybody just knows what to do and does their job perfectly!
At 11:30 guests began to arrive, and arrive they did! Literally hundreds of friends and family poured through the Groppo’s welcoming doors throughout the day.
After the extraordinary feast–extraordinary for the variety of, and deliciousness of, traditional Sicilian dishes, a feast for several hundred guests, I should add–many stayed for the afternoon; for conversation, coffee, desert, more wine, and tidyng the house for the next wave of family and friends, which began to arrive at 4:30.
The most beautiful of all prayer services was held at 5:00, where at the conclusion everyone stood shoulder to shoulder, holding hands, singing, and praying. Nina gave a most heartfelt speech of thanksgiving and then everyone embraced. The loving spirit of Saint Joseph, and the love and kindness of family and friends sharing a tradition together, was felt by all. And then we ate again, the second feast of the day!
Filming at the Groppo Family’s Saint Joseph Feast was simply beyond wonderful and I have a trunk full of memories I will treasure all my life. My most heartfelt thanks to Nina and Frank Groppo, and to their their extended Family and Friends for more than just allowing filming during their cherished Feast of Saint Joseph preparations, novena, and feast day, but for for making me feel welcome and completely at home! The thing is, they make everyone feel that way. Many come to the Groppo’s Feast straight away from work, fisherman and marine railway workers eat alongside businessmen in suits, and all are welcome at the Groppo table.
Words cannot accurately express my gratitude and appreciation to all the families that participated in the filming of Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph community film project. My sincerest hope is that the film will hold stories and moments for all to treasure.
I think the most challenging part of the upcoming editing is going to be in following the documentary’s screenplay, which I wrote several years ago, about the history and significance of the traditions, while weaving together everyone’s stories, and including all the priceless, spontaneous moments captured on film.
This post is a little hurried and I would like to write more, but it is my son’s 21st Birthday celebration tonight. Time for birthday dinner cooking to get underway. Viva San Giuseppe!!!
Updates will be added periodically to the film’s website: Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Film Project
Filming continues for Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph community film project, today at the beautifully warm and welcoming home of Nina and Frank Groppo.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart Groppo Family and Friends. I could not have felt more welcomed. Your kindness and good-heartedness reflects the true spirit of the Feast of Saint Joseph tradition.
I arrived at Nina and Frank’s home early this morning, just as Groppo friends and family were beginning to stream through the door, with everyone carrying armfuls of breakfast treats. The first order of business was starting several batches of homemade ricotta cooking on the stove. After filming the ricotta-making, I headed to the garage where the men were getting set up for making pasta. They had prepared the dough the night before and were spreading white cloths on the tables and setting out many hand pasta cranks.
All morning more and more friends arrived to lend a helping hand. There were perhaps 50-75 people there in the kitchen and in the garage, and all working at super high speed shaping, rolling, flouring, cranking, stacking, and cooking. Mid-morning and it was time to take a break. Nina and her crew fed the entire pasta-making team steaming bowls of the most amazingly delicious fresh ricotta. I had never had freshly made ricotta and after observing how it is made, I would love to give it a try.
One of the tables that Frank and his crew had set up in the garage was for drying the pasta. As batches of pasta were rolled, cut, and floured, they spread the pasta on the tables to dry. The first batches quickly filled the tabletop. The men then placed wooden blocks on the table and retuned from the shed with a new tabletop to stack on top of the first, covered that with a fresh white cloth, and spread the next batch of pasta. This happened eight times, to total a tower of pasta nine tiers high. Extraordinary!!!
After all pasta-making was done, amidst much dancing and merry-making, it was time to eat again! Frank and his crew cooked pasta in the garage, while Nina and her team prepared a large stockpot filled with sauce, which she had made from her homegrown harvest of tomatoes. Everyone crowded around the stove for beautiful aromatic bowls of pasta and red sauce, topped with freshly grated cheese.
Continue here for several more photos ~
This morning we continued filming for Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Film Project; today at Virgilio’s! So many thanks to Joe Virgilio for taking time from his busy, busy work day running the bakery.
We talked a bit about the history of Virgilio’s, founded in 1934, and at its current location since the 1950’s. At that time, Virgilios was not only a bakery, but a full grocery store as well (before there were supermarkets) and you could purchase goods such as whole chickens and sausages.
The Virgilios began making St. Joseph rolls in the early 1950s, specifically for the Feast of Saint Joseph and today, they make them year round. Back then, there were so many families that celebrated the Saint Joseph traditions that even as young kids, Joe and all his cousins had to hurry to the bakery after school to help their grandfather fill the St. Joseph roll orders. Now the bread is made with state of the art equipment but in his grandfather’s day it was all made by hand. Joe smiled thinking about how his grandfather would love today’s mixing and baking machines. I went home with a camera-full of stories and bag full of Joe’s bread, both generous, and much-appreciated gifts.
Virgilio’s Saint Joseph rolls are super yummy plain, with a touch of butter, or olive oil, and are even more super delicious made into one of their world-famous sandwiches!
In case you missed the Virgilio’s Phantom Gourmet episode, here it is:
As did Maria, Nina, and Domenic from Caffe Sicilia, Joe took time from his tremendously full work day to allow time for filming and sharing his stories. We’re so blessed to have these fabulous and welcoming bakeries/grocerias in our community. Next week, filming at Sclafani’s is scheduled!
Addendum ~ Al Bezanson writes in the comment section (see below):
“As a side note, did you know about the tradition of delivering donated fresh (sometimes warm) Virgilio’s bread to schooners as they arrive for the Labor Day Schooner Festival? When you get around schooner people you may hear them talking about the need to have extra butter aboard in Gloucester. This is a very big deal in fending off other ports that are vying for schooners that same weekend. Thanks Joe and the high speed Ramsey/Nesta delivery guys!”
THANK YOU AL for your always super helpful comments. This is information about Joe’s generosity that we would never have know without you sharing!
Preparing and baking the special San Guiseppe bread is a family endeavor at Caffe Sicilia. Within an hour’s time, Maria, Nina, and Domenic created dozens of loaves of bread in religiously significant shapes of St. Joseph’s staff, angels, and even a carpenter’s saw, as well as beautiful and whimsical flowers, sun, snails, and bunches of grapes. While they artfully and deftly shaped and baked, they shared their St. Joseph’s stories for our camera. Thank you Maria, Domenic, and Nina!
Caffe Sicilia’s San Giuseppe bread is available for sale on March 18th, as well as by special order. Not only is it beautiful, but it is also out-of-this-world delicious!
Today was a joyful day and I am immensely appreciative. Many, many thanks to Maria, Nina, and Domenic from the bottom of my heart for their kindness and help with Gloucester’s St. Joseph film project.
Below are just some of the posts honoring last year’s participants. If you have not been contacted, please, we do not want to leave anyone out. Contact me at email@example.com if you would like your family’s story included in Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph film project. Thank you.
You may recall that last year on Saint Joseph’s Day, as well as during the nine day novena leading up to the Feast, we began filming the community-wide project, Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph. My original hope was to have completed the doucmentary and release it to the community on Saint Joseph’s Day 2014. There are, however, several very important elements missing, and they can only be filmed during the days leading up to Saint Joseph’s Day. In lieu of presenting the finished film on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19th, 2014, we will instead be releasing a short 5-minute film trailer. Stay tuned for more details!
My most heartfelt thanks goes to all the families who have so far contributed to make this a very special film. If you would like to participate in creating Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph ~ A Community Film Project, please contact the director, Kim Smith, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Much more is to come, with many wonderful surprises. Stay tuned for updates as filmmaking takes place during the Feast of San Giuseppe, 2014!
While editing over the past few months, I created Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph website to keep our community informed and updated about the film’s progress. Read more about Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph, the Director’s Statement, follow our blog, and see snapshots from last year’s filming here: