Monday, March 19, 2012

Bakery Review: Scialo Bros Bakery - Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Since I can remember being in Rhode Island, I can remember these wonderful little pastries only available once a year just as winter is turning into spring.  I am talking about the zeppole.

All throughout my childhood my mother worked right off of Federal Hill and every year she would bring home zeppoles from Scialo Bros Bakery.  The significance of the zeppole stems from the St. Joseph's Day celebrations in Italy.  St. Joseph's Day is a big Feast for Italians because in the Middle Ages, God, through St. Joseph's intercessions, saved the Sicilians from a very serious drought. So in his honor, the custom is for all to wear red, in the same way that green is worn on St. Patrick's Day and to prepare a feast. In Rome, Naples and Sicily and Malta, these little pastries are sold on many streets and are sometimes gifts on this day. St. Joseph's Day always falls on March 19 and it is also Father's Day in Italy.  Joseph is also the patron saint of pastry chefs.  

All in all, whatever the reason is to consume delicious treats is good enough for me.  Let me explain my experience today at Scialo (pronounced "shallow") Bros Bakery.  As always, I am warmly greeted with cases filled with all sorts of pastries.

As I patiently wait my turn, the line is out the door and a fantastic sign that I am not the only who has unearthed the secret to where to find the BEST zeppoles, I look at the specials to determine which zeppoles I will get.

My personal favorites are the Baked pastry cream inside and on top and the Baked Ricotta cream with orange zest inside and on top.  I am always greeted by a smiling face and quick service.  What I particularly enjoy is that you can see straight into the back room from where you order.  You can see everyone working hard and using clean and safe practices.  I ask if I can snap a few pictures and amazingly enough I am given a tour of the backroom by the one of the owners.  

First things first, I need to see a tray of all of the beautiful zeppoles.

Freshly made and ready to go!  Then I am taken to the baking room where I am shown the wood oven where everything is baked fresh on site.  The oven is original and dates back to the 1920's.

Simply incredible.  Not only is there original equipment but the business is still in the family. The original owner Luigi Scialo opened the bakery in 1916 with his brother.  

He ran the bakery for seven generations with the help of his family until he died in 1993 at the age of 103.  It is now run by his two daughters, Lois (Scialo) Ellis and Carol (Scialo) Gaeta.

Carol is pictured here with one of the employees.

Just look at how efficient these guys are:

My tour has finished and now I can eat!  Both zeppoles are incredible and different in their own ways.  The one with the ricotta filing with orange zest is light, bright and fluffy while the one with the pastry cream is rich and decadent.

Ricotta cream on left and pastry cream on right.

I do not like one better than the other.  They are both so delicious that I think it would be a shame to choose one over the other.  Also, this gives me a reason to eat both of them which I find completely satisfying.  One more thing, look at the filling in the ricotta cream zeppole:

You can actually see the real pieces of orange zest in the cream.  This is no joke.  And this is the real deal.  

Stuff your face full of these and be part of the celebration, I couldn't think of a nicer thing to do on an almost spring day.

Scialo Brothers Bakery on Urbanspoon

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