It's Beginning to Taste a Lot Like Christmas
When Christmas comes to Joe's Italian Kitchen, owner Joe Cafaro welcomes it by the pound - 100 pounds to be exact.
It's cuccidati (pronounced coo-chee-dah-tee), Sicilian fig-stuffed cookies that, to Cafaro, are as indicative of the holidays as old Saint Nick.
"This recipe was given to me by an old Italian lady, Maria Nuccio, in Brooklyn," Cafaro said. "She would make the whole batch at one time, put them in a box in the back of a closet, and only take them out to serve."
Decades later, Cafaro's mastered the recipe and makes his own annually. They're not quite stored in the darkness of a closet, but they're just as good.
"Here at Joe's, we make about 10 pounds at a time," he said. "For me to make 100 pounds would take two days."
This season, the cookies have already sold past the 50-pound mark, leaving only one more week for fans to collect.
"Now's the time," he said. "People start calling me to reserve them, because when they're gone, they're gone. That's it."
That's the way the cookie crumbles, but Cafaro's not one to leave his community cookie-less for the holidays.
Along with cuccidati, Joe's boasts a selection of homemade pignoli cookies, Italian wedding cookies and, as always, Joe's celebrated biscotti.
Pignoli, made with almond flavored dough and covered in pine nuts, are only made to order, though wedding cookies (named so because the almonds inside are a sign of good luck) and biscotti are far more bountiful, and not just in numbers.
"Smell that," Cafaro said, leaning into the biscotti display case. "It's a slice of heaven right there."
It's also a slice of memory.
"I'd go home," said Cafaro, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., "to visit my friends and family, and the ladies would bring this box of cuccidati out of the closet. It was just so cool, I'd always ask for more, and they'd always give me a box to take home. Going home was always a real treat. My friends' parents would make these wonderful treats and, of course, they taught me how to make them."
They also taught him how to store them. The closet is not required, but the cookies last longer in a cool, dark place, up to a month or more.
Cuccidati and wedding cookies sell for $4 a box, $10 for a medium tin and $20 for a large tin, and, as Cafaro will attest, "it's a great gift."
Biscotti (in three flavors) run $10 per pound or $1.50 each, while pignoli (only made to order) cost $18 per pound.
"I had a lady come by and buy $60 worth - twice," Cafaro said of the cuccidati.
In other words, get them while supplies last.
Joe's Italian Kitchen is located at 190 Boone Heights Drive in Boone. For more information, call (828) 263-9200 or visit http://www.joesitaliankitchen.com.
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