Welcome to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we’ll be exploring a different food item from one of the many culturally diverse restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers of our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.
Readers, it’s time we put some Italian honey balls in our mouths. And, of course, we’re talking about struffoli from Vito’s Bakery & Grocery on Avenue U.
I was first introduced to struffoli by a little Italian grandmother soon after I moved to Sheepshead Bay over 20 years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Nona moved away years ago, taking her recipe with her, but I was lucky enough to discover Vito’s Bakery. Struffoli just like grandma used to make.
What is struffoli? Struffoli are small balls of fried dough and various candied fruits drenched in honey. In the United States, they are often topped with sprinkles and sometimes nuts. The fried dough balls are typically the size of marbles, crunchy on the outside and soft and light in the middle. They are an instant sugar rush!
Legend has it that struffoli originated in Naples, first made by nuns and given to the local aristocracy each Christmas to thank “the richies” for their charitable works during the year. Greeks and Romans have some claims to struffoli as well, with the Greeks contributing to the name. The Greek word “strongulous” means “round in shape.” And the Romans have adapted the recipe into their own version, stuffing the dough balls with candied fruits and chopped almonds.
True Neapolitan struffoli is available each Christmas and Easter season in Italian bakeries all over Brooklyn, but some of the best are found right here in Sheepshead Bay at Vito’s Bakery.
But you have to move fast! Struffoli is only available for a limited time. $9.00 buys you enough to feed a party; $14.00 enough to feed the neighborhood.
Vito’s Bakery & Grocery, 1916 Avenue U, (718) 332-3577.