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.
So many joy-filled faces filling their plates with Saint Joseph Day feast fare, prepared by Nina, Franco, and a tremendous circle of family and friends. The special meatless feast dishes are prepared during the weeks prior to Saint Joseph Day and everyone lends a hand, from the very youngest to the very oldest.
To name just some of the wonderfully delicious and much anticipated traditional foods– bowls of handmade tender pasta, fish and shrimp baked with bread crumbs (the breadcrumbs symbolize sawdust), batter-dipped and fried artichokes and cauliflower, Saint Joseph bread, panellle, platters of smoked and freshly caught cod, octopus salad, minestrone with fava beans, fresh fruit, sfinci, cassata cake, and zeppole.
In honor of the spirit of Saint Joseph and the values of compassion and kindness that He represents, the Groppo Family opens their home to all who wish to celebrate at the table of San Giuseppe. ❤
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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.
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.
Many thanks to Sefatia Romeo Thekan for the suggestion to contact Maria and family to interview for Gloucester’ Feast of Saint Joseph film project.
For improved viewing experience, click off the Vimeo HD icon in the bottom right hand corner and the video will load much more quickly.
As you will hear Maria’s story unfold (while deftly shaping the dough), her family’s tradition of making the Saint Joseph altar bread began several years ago, for a very heartfelt reason. In 2010, her young daughter was facing a very serious operation. Maria had never made the special Saint Joseph bread, but decided that year to make it her devotion to Saint Joseph. Maria taught herself how to shape the bread, finding inspiration in old photos of altars, and also from images, which she found online, of bread made in Sicily. Maria lived in Italy for five years, attending art school and studying fashion design. When I write “Artists-in-the Kitchen” you’ll see why after viewing the video.
Both of Maria’s parents, Nina and Domenic, were born in Sicily and grew up celebrating the Feast of San Giuseppe in the Sicilian tradition of feeding the poor and orphaned, and welcoming all who came to their table. Thank you Maria, Domenic, and Nina for graciously welcoming me into your Caffe Sicilia’s kitchen!
Saint Joseph Bread is available by special order at Caffe Sicilia. Call to place your order at (978) 283-2345
See previous posts related to Caffe Sicilia:
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!