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April 6, 2012     Post-Gazette
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POST-GAZETTE, APRIL 6, 2012 Page 13 Easter is this weekend and like most families we have made plans for the holiday. As I have mentioned many times, we combine our fam- ily with that of my cousin, Ralph Pepe. Ralph is the grandson of Zi'Antonio, Nanna's oldest brother and the man who brought her to America. Ralph's mother and my mother were cousins and the closest of relatives on that side of the family. As a result, when she married Ralph Pepe Sr., and had a family, Morn and Dad social- ized with them and we kids all grew up together. Ralph siblings are all gone and he and I are now the old timers as heads of the extended families. You know how people drift away in families when they grow up? Well we were no dif- ferent. I ran into Ralph at a family wake about 25 years ago. And, like most relatives you haven't seen in a long time, we talked about the fun we had when we were kids and how we should get to- gether at some point in the future: I've experienced this scenario many times over the years, but a week after that wake, Ralph called and we made plans to have our wives and kids meet. Since that point in time. we have been celebrating the holidays to- gether as an extended fam- ily, just like the point in time when his grandparents and mine were the heads of their respective families. e( ' (  by John Christoforo 00Babbi0000nonno A Nostalgic Remembrance Ralph and his wife, Angela, met with Loretta and me at a restaurant a few days ago, and we planned out the Eas- ter arrangements. They have four children, three of whom have families of their own and will be there along with the fourth who is still single. On my side, Michael will be coming home from New York for the weekend, but John, our oldest, is in San Francisco and cannot make it back for the holidays, due to his new job. Considering the number of people who will be at Easter dinner, the ladies worked out the menu and how much food would be necessary to feed one and all. As I mentioned, we spend the holidays together. The three that are important are Thanksgiving, Christ- mas and Easter. Thanksgiv- ing is an American holiday and the food that we plan out for that Thursday in Novem- ber is American. But, Christ- mas and Easter, to us, are Italian holidays and the food will be Italian. The top of the kitchen table will be covered with all types of Italian deli- cacies, which combined, will f Pasqua II ..... - II THE II MUSIC FOR ALL Lk OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 , HAPPY EASTER from the East Boston Y ---i-:. ---- B:,-.- j_B F3'iIIII[IIC"P;'ilI'I State-of-the-art fitness center Babysitting while you workout - FREE classes like Zumba & Yoga 3 FREE sessions of coaching 1 215 Bremen St. & 54 Ashley St. 617-569-9622 ymbcaboston.org EAST BOSTON YMCA YMCA OF GREATER BOSTON Auguri di BuonafromPasqua The 00)irandello .f.00ceurn Rosario Cascio, President Frank Ciano, Esq., First Vice-President Maria Capogreco, Second Vice-President and Treasurer Dorothy Male, Corresponding Secretary Maria Luisa Saraceni, Recording Secretary Line Rullo, Scholarship Fund Executive Vincent Fazzolari, Scholarship Chairman Dr. Stephen F. Male, Chairman of the Board www.pirandello.com be our antipasti. The dinner will consist of ravioli, meat- balls, sausages, chunks of dif- ferent meats cooked in the gravy, vegetables sauthed in garlic and oil, salad and homemade wine. Just to let everyone know we are in America, there will be a large baked ham in the center of the table. Later, the ricotta pizzas that are traditional at Easter time will be placed on a table and along with coffee and sambuca, will constitute the desserts of the day. About 7:00 or 8:00 pro, everyone will start heading home, and like her grandmother and mother before her, Ralph's wife will hand out doggie bags with the dinner leftovers that will be warmed up for dinner the next day. This is the way it's done when you are Italian. I remember a story that Nanna and my mother told me when I was a kid. It seems that Babbononno wanted lamb for Easter din- ner one year and bought a live lamb and kept it in a shed he had built in the back of the garden at the house at 70 Eutaw Street, where the fam- ily grew up. Babbononno had come from Foggia. a city on Italy's east coast, and I guess that lamb for Easter might have been common. The cus- tom may have been due to Greek influences in that part of Italy, but I'm not sure. Any- way, Babbononno bought the live lamb. brought it home and kept it out back, feeding it every day to fatten it up. Uncle Gino, the youngest of his children, and the only sib- ling of my mother's left alive. adopted the lamb as his pet. Each day, he would play with the animal as if it was a dog Buona asqua JOSEPH RUSSO FUNERAL HOME INC. 814 American Legion Highway Roslindale, MA 617-325-7300 or cat, with Nanna constantly preventing him from bring- ing the animal into the house. As Easter approached, it was evident that Uncle Gino had formed an attach- ment with the little lamb. Mom, Uncle Paul and Uncle Nick tried to tell their young- est brother that he shouldn't become so attached to the lamb, but when you are that small and emotional, you sometimes don't listen to reality. Well, Easter weekend fi- nally arrived and Nanna be- gan the food preparations that would, in their com- pleted form, adorn the Con- tini table for the holiday. Back then, Italians didn't buy things canned, packaged or jarred. Everything was fresh and those basic ingre- dients would be combined by my grandmother to make the courses for the Easter dinner. Babbononno did his part, too. He would have one of his sons drive him to his brother-in-law Zi'Antonio's house, where he would select a couple of gallons of his best homemade red wine. And on that particular Easter weekend, he had another chore. If the lamb was destined to adorn the center of the Contini table. someone had to slaughter it, dress it and then cook it. The cooking part was left up to Nanna, but the rest, this was the responsibility of my grandfather. Holy Saturday evening saw the Contini children heading for bed and when they were asleep, Babbononno headed to the back yard with the implements to butcher the main course of the next day. After Easter Mass, the entire family headed back home and Nanna continued with the dinner preparations she had abandoned for a couple of hours to attend Mass and say hello to everyone at the Mt. Carmel Church. Well, the hour of truth finally arrived. When dinner was served, there was a roasted lamb sit- ting in the middle of the Contini table. When Uncle Gino saw the main course, as young as he was, he put two and two together and ran out of the house heading for the shed in the back yard and his pet lamb. Of course the lamb wasn't there and two and two added up to five. He cried, screamed, yelled and ran into his room and hid under his bed sobbing all afternoon. I'm assuming the family enjoyed the taste of the lamb dinner as Nanna was a great cook. Uncle Gino didn't eat any of the lamb when he became hungry enough to come out of hiding. From what my late mother used to say, Uncle Gino never ate lamb ever again in his life. I don't know how true this last statement is, but I'm wondering if I should ask my uncle if she was right. Fast forwarding the time frame to when I was a kid. Dad and Uncles Paul and Nick couldn't wait for Easter to pass as music was at a minimum during the Lenten season. All three of them played in society bands back then and things were slow until Eas- ter was over and weddings would take place on Satur- days and Sundays through June. Dances. parties, debutante balls, proms, graduations and such ... all of these would surface after Easter had passed and the men in my family would be happy as they were among the best free lance musicians in Boston and would then be working eight days a week. 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