NJ has more kinds of Italian Christmas cookies than most towns in Italy
That might sound unbelievable, but it's probably true. From traveling to visit family and friends in Italy and hosting them here, I found that most Italian foods are very regional. What they have in Sicily, they may never make in Tuscany, or even have heard of.
The advantage that we have here in New Jersey is that we have so many Italian immigrant descendants from so many different regions of Italy. There are 20 in all. So that leaves us with a wide variety of Italian foods and treats all in one small geographic area.
One of my favorite Christmas cookies that my grandmother and parents used to make was Struffoli. My mom and dad always just called them "honey balls" in their effort to "Americanize" as much as possible. Boy, is that a forgotten tradition. They are the most delicious things in the world and bring back so many delicious childhood memories.
My mom passed away this past year and hadn't made them since my dad passed about three years ago. My daughter, knowing how much I missed them, and how labor-intensive they are to make, found them in a ShopRite somewhere in the area. She didn't remember what town the store was located in. Here's where you can find them in North Jersey, and the whole state.
Some of the other holiday favorites that my grandmother used to make were Pignoli cookies, Anise sugar cookies, pizzelles, Italian Cenci Cookies and holiday biscotti. She made about four or five of them on that list and another favorite was ‘Cuccidati’, which we just called "fig cookies."
There were some you might find in Italian bakeries, and many you can only find in the kitchens of those who were wise enough to ask "nonna" to write down the recipes for them. And for some of us, they only live in our fond Christmas memories.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy only.
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