The days of autumn and winter are always reminiscent of my childhood in the 1950's and '60's in the Italian-American neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
In the fall, just before Thanksgiving, my dad would unload crates of grapes from the freight trains in East Williamsburg, which he delivered for Tony "Bananas" Venezia of the Hollywood Fruit & Vegetable store in Clinton Hill to the homes of Italians who fermented their own wine in the barrels.
Red grapes, green grapes - everywhere the scent and sight of fresh grapes dangling out of the crates, just begging to be tasted.
Parente's Italian meat factory-store was disseminating the aromas of il prosciutto and il salame, which were being cured while i salumi (cold cuts) were being sliced in the store on Myrtle Avenue and Emerson Place.
But the sweetest memories of all are those of the one and only Circo's Pastry Shop on Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick. My Uncle Ferdinando Nizzari, born in Calabria, Italy, was one of the earliest bakers at Circo's, founded in 1945 by a Sicilian immigrant.
Therefore, we were always treated to Circo's i dolci (sweets), which included torte (cakes), pastries and biscotti (cookies). My January fondant (creamy sugar icing) birthday cakes, il cannolo (cannoli), and il biscotto di mandorle (almond cookies) are happily still being baked at old-fashioned Circo's thanks to Nino Pierdipino, and his sons Anthony and Salvatore, the present owners since 1973.
This holiday season, meet me at Circo's for un'assaggio (a taste) of Italian and French i dolci.
Joseph N. Manago