Zeppole, Italian Pastry Blessed on Feast of St. Joseph at The Italian Bakery in Conshohocken
Zeppole, Italian Pastry especially enjoyed among Sicilians on the Feast of St. Joseph is prepared dough shaped the size of small balls and fried until golden all around before topping with honey or sugars, perhaps a few sprinkles for color.
Zeppole resembles a similar flavor to the fried dough rolled in powdered sugar and served at annual festivals or church carnivals being a bit crispier in texture than a doughnut.
The tradition of serving Zeppole on this feast day is one of celebration and sharing with others was initially begun by the people of Sicily giving Thanks to their Patron Saint, Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Mother, Mary, for his believed intercession in breaking a prolonged drought causing famine to the people. The history is that the people prayed to St. Joseph for his assistance and should his intercession to God break the drought they would offer a great feast in his honor. The drought was broken. The feast commenced.
The Feast of Devotion continues today, including among Italian immigrants in the United States such as Domenic, owner of the Conshohocken Italian Bakery in Pennsylvania. Yesterday, at the Italian Bakery, Father Gasper A. Genuardi from Saints Cosmos and Damian Church provided the blessing of the symbolic St. Joseph’s Table, along with Sister Rose Pierre also from the local parish church.
Another important food ingredient always included among the remembrances on the Feast of St. Joseph Tables, each resembling shrines are Fava Beans for it is the Fava Bean that prevented starvation among the Sicilian people and was the single crop that continued to grow.
The blessing of the Fava Bean then became associated with good luck along with the legend that so long as you have a Fava Bean in your pantry you will never go hungry or be broke. At the dedicated table centerpiece sits a statue of St. Joseph surrounded by a variety of foods in addition to the Zeppole and the Fava Beans. Selections of bread are commonly popular, including those shaped or braided into religious symbols as crosses, rosaries, perhaps staffs for St. Joseph.
Besides the Zeppole and Fava Beans Domenic’s St. Joseph dedication table at the Conshohocken Italian Bakery included wine, fruit, a broad variety of breads from among the symbols of religious significance as well as selections from the many breads produced at his family bakery.
One of the very special customs related to this day is about sharing with others and on the Feast of St. Joseph, honoring the day Domenic prepares large batches of special rolls for sharing among residents at Senior Homes in the area which are annually delivered by Domenic’s friend, Hank Cisco, radio host dubbed the Ambassador of Norristown.
Sister Rose familiar with the Feast of St. Joseph as celebrated among Italian descendants through living in Vineland, New Jersey shared with me that on this Feast Day in many of the Italian immigrant communities in Vineland each of the families will create and set up a dedicated shrine to St. Joseph in their home. Throughout neighborhoods on this day folks will go from home to home visiting the shrines of their neighbors and sharing with each other as part of the celebration.
As for Owner, Domenic Gambone he exemplifies old world virtues being of a humble nature and possessing a strong work ethic still continuing to work a full day of hard, vigorous work in the bakery each day. He claims the work at his bakery is his passion. One can be sure then that it is not only the Fava Beans that have insured a lifetime of success and the respect of his community that he now enjoys on the current 40th Anniversary celebration of his literal block long Italian Bakery providing a diverse scale of baked products to wholesalers, retailers and a long line of store front fans due to his quality baked goods.
I guess one could say Domenic Gambone is the salt of the earth with another symbolism that he has been baking the bread, sharing, and sustaining so many others over the course of more than forty years then seeming fitting that he embrace his Sicilian heritage and his continued devotion to the Feast of St. Joseph.
Below is a recipe shared from the Italian Bakery in Conshohocken for you to prepare your own Zeppole, a treat that can be enjoyed by anyone, anytime throughout the year.
You can learn more about the Conshohocken Italian Bakery here. Thank you to Domenic, his lovely daughter, Tina, and to all the guests and attendees of the Conshohocken Italian Bakery for the gracious invitation to share in the blessing and the experience.