For years I’ve been hearing about Saint Joseph’s Day (March 19), mainly from people working in traditional Italian restaurants and bakeries. While Saint Joseph’s Day still remains sort of a mystery to me, I am aware of how important the celebration is to the Sicilian community here in Buffalo. Hopefully the secrecy surrounding this religious feast will no longer remain a mystery thanks to the dedication of one family that is determined to shed some light on the tradition.
Local chef Mary Ann Giordano along with her dad, Dr. Paul Giordano, are promoting a new cookbook that celebrates Saint Joseph’s Day, and the accompanying feast and recipes that go hand in hand. “Saint Joseph’s day is a favorite holiday of my family because we are a family of chefs,” says Giordano. “It’s a day of feasting from a buffet of traditional foods served in traditional ways, and my father encouraged me to learn about these. As we looked for ways to enhance our own Saint Joseph’s day table, we were surprised to find that there was not one book available. So we decided to write a cookbook that would help anyone host their own Saint Joseph’s day celebration. We spent more than decade researching and digging into our own family lore to come up with 100 of the best recipes, the history of Saint Joseph’s Day and the many ways it is celebrated. Everyone in my family over the age of 40 carries a knife and a paper bag under their car seat, just in case they spot a patch of dandelions or erba mari on the side of the road. We come from poor families in Sicily and were taught to work hard, save your money, never throw anything away, and take nothing for granted. We still cook like we’re thankful for every crust of bread. As a third-generation Italian American, I’m afraid that my generation is losing the recipes and traditions of our ancestors. This book is my effort to save some of those recipes and traditions for my children and their children.”
Now that the cookbook has been published, Mary Ann will be heading out on the road to do a series of book signings at local book stores, including Talking Leaves locations. For anyone out of town looking to get their hands on the 152-page Sicilian treasure, you can purchase online at BuffaloHeritage.com for $24.95.
In another stroke of luck, Buffalonians will not only be able to leaf through the cookbook, they will also be able to eat some of the traditional meals at Mary Ann’s new restaurant that she is in the process of opening on Kenmore Avenue in the former O’Connell’s restaurant. The restaurant will be called Gigi’s Cucina Povera, and it is there that locals will find some delicious Sicilian peasant fare such as sfinge or pasta con sarde. It’s the final chapter of Mary Ann’s journey to “capture this lovely Sicilian tradition, so beloved in Buffalo but less known elsewhere in the nation.” What started as an ode to Buffalo’s close-knit Italian-American community, will now be put out onto the dining room table for all to enjoy.
Mangia! Viva San Giuseppe!
Gigi’s Cucina Povera – Facebook
981 kenmore Avenue