THE BITE: Hey, today, March 19, is St. Joseph’s Day. What better way to celebrate than by eating some St. Joseph zeppole? What’s that you say? What are St. Joseph zeppole?
St. Joseph zeppole, or zeppole di San Giuseppeis, is a classic Italian pastry traditionally made only for the feast day of St. Joseph. In Italy, it’s also their Father’s Day. According to Academia Barilla:
On this day, pastry shops around Italy sell zeppole di San Giuseppe, fritters filled with pastry cream. This tradition dates back to 500 AC and the Latin celebration of Baccanali, which took place on March 17th in honor of Bacchus and Silinus, respectively, the gods of wine and wheat. The Ancient Romans would consume large quantities of wine and wheat-flour fritters to celebrate the two divinities. It should come as no surprise that St. Joseph’s day, which comes two days later, often includes similar customs. The modern-day recipe for zeppole, however, was created fairly recently. It is believed that this type of fritter was invented by a convent of monks at the beginning of the 19th century.
Luckily, we don’t have to travel to Italy to celebrate. Head over to T & D Bakery (2307 Avenue U between East 23rd Street and East 24th Street) for a great Italian-American version of this sacred treat.
T & D Bakery makes its St. Joseph zeppole ($2.00) by first frying up some pâte à choux (a light pastry dough usually used for eclairs), filling it with cannoli cream (a sweet cream made from ricotta cheese), mixing in some chocolate chips just to up the sugar content, and finally topping it with some candied orange peel, a few green sprinkles and a Maraschino cherry. Do you see the colors of the Italian flag in the toppings? I do.
Sounds heavy doesn’t it? Nope, this confection is surprisingly light. Much lighter than you’d expect. It’s so light that I was craving at least a couple more after eating only one. This is a sweet dish, but, to my palate, the sugar content is far from overwhelming. T & D got this exactly right. I want another, now.
I had never heard of this incredible snack until I moved to Brooklyn, even though I was schooled by the Sisters of Saint Joseph throughout my elementary school years. With all the attention focused on St. Patrick, most folks are unaware of this dessert and it seems even less know about the feast of St. Joseph. Frankly, I’d rather have the pastry and its side effects than the booze and its side effects from St. Patty’s Day. I guess I’m getting old.
Full disclosure time here, T & D Bakery is a participant in our annual food feast, A Taste of Sheepshead Bay and an occasional advertiser on Sheepshead Bites. T & D is not aware of this article being written and we paid full retail for my St. Joseph zeppole. And it was worth every penny.
T & D Bakery, 2307 Avenue U (between East 23rd Street and East 24th Street), (718) 769-2267.
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.