(If you want to know what the soundtrack was while I wrote this, you’re going to have see the featured image on the main page. If you already did, I like you. If you didn’t, you’re alright.)
March has a very important holiday. And it’s not St. Patrick’s Day. This day might be important to you, but the appeal of beer with green dye in it and boiled corned beef and garbage is lost on me. Wimpy looking kids punching the hell out of cars is hilarious to me, though. But I put up with all of the St. Patrick’s day junk because, once you make it through that, Saint Joseph’s Day is right behind it on March 19. March 19 also not ironically happens to also be my mom’s birthday; she’s named Josephine after the saint. So happy birthday, mom!
Without going into the religious aspect of this day too much, Saint Joseph, Jesus’s step-dad, is an important saint to catholics around the world, and the celebration of Saint Joseph’s day is important all around the world as a day of feasting. In Sicily and New York City, bakers honor Saint Joseph by baking pastries. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of bakers, so I’m of the feeling that anyone with an Italian bakery (or pasticceria in Italian) should make the signature Saint Joseph pastries, especially in Italian neighborhoods. In Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, you can’t walk down 18th avenue without someone hitting you in the back of the head with one of these things in March.
Sadly, this is not the case in the Capital Region of NY.
Last weekend, I visited a famed pasticceria in Schenectady, NY and asked the girl at the counter if there were any St. Joseph pastries. She said that maybe probably they could possibly have had some a few days earlier, and any further probing didn’t lead anywhere. Shame on you, bakery in a neighborhood with a dense Italian American population with pasticceria in your name for not having these.
So, I had to go to old faithful, Bella Napoli in Latham this past Saturday to settle my urge for the pastries. As I said when trying to help one of Steve Barnes’s readers, they do the trick.
Above, the two types of pastries are depicted. The one on the bottom is commonly called a zeppola and is filled with a thick vanilla custard and topped with a cherry.
The other pastries are supposed to be the sfingi variety, the pastry of which is usually a large cream puff smeared with a thick ricotta cream (almost like cannoli cream, with candied fruit and chocolate chips). It looks like Bella Napoli takes the easy way out and just uses the same pastry for both varieties; they just change the filling. Alright, I won’t get on them for that. At least they make them…
Like I said, Bella Napoli does the trick.
I took a ride down to my parents’ house in Middletown, NY (where my dad has a shop that sells them from Sal and Jerry’s Bakery in Brooklyn during this time of year) for mom’s birthday last night and got a chance to snap a picture of the pastries they had.
Here are the zeppoli:
Here are the sfingi:
Regardless of what your St. Joseph pastries look like, I hope your 3/19 is filled with great times and lots of pastries!