Joe’s Italian Christmas Cookies

By Frank Ruggiero (

Article Published: Dec. 5, 2013 | Modified: Dec. 17, 2013
Joe’s Italian Christmas Cookies

Joe Cafaro, owner and chef of Joe’s Italian Kitchen, displays the homemade filling for this year’s batch of cuccidati Christmas cookies.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

It’s beginning to taste a lot like Christmas.

For that, you can thank Joe Cafaro.

Just in time for the holidays, Cafaro, owner of Joe’s Italian Kitchen in Boone, is baking a special batch of Sicilian fig-stuffed cookies, better known as cuccidati (pronounced coo-chee-dah-tee).

While their ingredients include organic figs, dates and nuts, the cookies feature an essential ingredient not commonly found in grocery stores.

“Tradition,” Cafaro said. “Ever since I can remember, I’d go home, and they’d be there. It reminds me a little of my childhood but more so of my teenage years. Those were a lot of fun, because you really came to understand Christmas and family tradition.”

Cafaro’s recipe comes courtesy of a neighbor from his youth in Brooklyn, N.Y., who would, as tradition dictates, store them in the back of a closet — a practice many agree helps preserve the cookies’ freshness.

Joe’s Italian Kitchen has a different way of keeping them fresh, namely baking them in store and selling them to droves of hungry customers. “I had people asking for them two weeks before Thanksgiving,” Cafaro said.

This year, customers’ best chance at cuccidati is to order them in advance, and Cafaro cannot guarantee that any will be left over. “We’ll have about 30 pounds of cookies, and we’re already taking orders,” he said.

What makes them so special?

“They’re delicious,” Cafaro said. “There were so many cookies we made, but this one’s my favorite. If you can only have a cookie one time a year for just two or three weeks, you’d fall in love with it, too.”

That’s not to say there aren’t other options. Joe’s is also baking a batch of Italian wedding cookies, packed with almond filling and topped with powdered sugar aplenty, along with the homemade biscotti that’s now readily available.

For cuccidati and wedding cookies, customers must place their orders no later than Saturday, Dec. 7, Cafaro said, adding that they’ll be ready for pick-up Dec. 16. Both cost $10 for a seven-inch tin, payable in advance or upon receipt.

For more information, or to place an order, call Joe’s Italian Kitchen at (828) 263-9200. Joe’s Italian Kitchen is located at 190 Boone Heights Drive in Boone.

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Got restaurant news? Contact editor Frank Ruggiero at ( or (828) 264-6397, ext. 244.

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