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December 24, 2010     Post-Gazette
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December 24, 2010

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POST-GAZETTE, DECEMBER 24, 2010 Page13 l2 n tl " 00Babb00onno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance ii Buon Natale from my son John, yours truly, Loretta and Michael Christoforo. I would like to combine several Christmas Eves into one and tell you what it was like in the Christoforo and Contini households back when I was a child. The frst thing I remember is the last minute shopping for food that was required for the night of December 24. It is a tradition in Italian homes that fish is served. I believe that the requirement is an odd number of fish dishes. I'm not sure if there is or was anything religious sig- nificance attached to this or just Italian tradition. Any- way, in our house it was usually "7 fishes." As I mentioned last week, if there were any jobs to be played on the night of De- cember 24, Dad and my uncles would hire substi- tutes to fill in for them. Most of the substitutes were Jew- ish musicians and when their holidays came up, Dad and my uncles reciprocated and filled in for them. Earlier in the day, some- one would have driven Babbononno to Zi'Antonio Ceruolo's house. He was Nanna's oldest brother and Babbononno's best friend. Once at the Ceruolo home on Orleans Street in East Boston, Babbononno would sample some of my great uncles best homemade wines and purchase a couple of gallons of red for Christ- mas dinner and a gallon of white for Christmas Eve. In the interim, Nanna and my mother would have picked up the odds and ends that they had forgotten and needed to make Christmas Eve perfect. Around 5:00 pm, everyone involved in the cooking would be in the kitchen getting things pre- pared. There were the clams, oys- ters, muscles and quahogs to open, hopefully without any- one getting cut in the pro- cess. Dad would have picked up several lobsters at the fish pier on his way back from wherever, as his spe- cialty was lobster fra diavolo. If there were any eels that Babbononno might have bought at Giuffre's Fish Mar- ket in the North End, he and he alone had to prepare them, as Nanna was deathly afraid of snakes. To her, eels were snakes that could swim and my mother was just as bad. Babbononno and Dad would shuck all the shell fish and then give them to my mother and Nanna to prepare. While they were doing this, Dad would begin the gravy for the lobster fra diavolo and then boil the lob- sters. Babbononno would fry the pieces of his dissected eels with Nanna out of the kitchen. When he was done, and Dad had his segmented pieces of lobster submerged in his tomato gravy, they would leave the kitchen and Nanna and my mother would take over again.., this time to prepare the rest of the fish, which might include shrimp, scallops, calamari, octopus, smelts, baccala and merluzzo. These might be the seven fishes, but in this count, they wouldn't include the lobsters, eels and shell food, so the tradition was savedI By early evening, every- thing was prepared and the rest of the family would have arrived. As we all sat at the dining room table, the baked quahogs, clams and oysters on the half shell or the razor clams and the snails were served family style. Everyone dug in. These Buon Natale -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 dished were followed by Dad's lobster fra diavolo served over a bed of linguini with just enough hot flavoring to make his marinara gravy interesting. When this course was finished, out came the fried smelts, and the rest of the fish dishes cooked in many different ways. I especially liked the baccala salad; cold codfish prepared with olives, celery, herbs and doused with olive oil. I could dunk my bread in the oil in between bites. The bread was always either the Italian round loaf or sliced scali. I don't think anyone in my family ever bought what the Americans called bread, Bond or Wonderbread. After all the fish dishes had been con- sumed and washed down with chilled white wine from Zi'Antonio's cellar, Nanna would bring out the salad. There was no store-bought dressing to add in. After the lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers were added to the bowl, my grandmother sprinkled in homemade wine vinegar and doused the concoction with olive oil, and then threw in a few herbs to add flavor. Like in the old country, the salad course came after the main courses were over. After the salad came the fruits, nuts and maybe cookies. Actual dessert would happen later in the evening, not right after the main meal. Once the fruit was con- sumed and coffee served, the men would head for the liv- ing room to listen to the ra- dio and smoke their cigars which would be enhanced by cognac, and other after din- ner drinks. Within a short period of time, the men in the family would be snoring away and the women would get stuck with the cleanup of the dinner dishes. About an hour later, Mom would announce that the coffee was ready. She would yell loud enough to awaken all of the men and they would make excuses for falling asleep. This would not hinder them from heading back to the dining room where the table was now set for dessert. Both American and espresso types of coffee would be served and an ar- ray of desserts would be mounted on a serving plate in the middle of the table, surrounded by dishes with pizzelle, Italian cookies, one or two panetonne and maybe a couple of American pies. If there was room, another ac- companiment might be dishes of candy or unshelled nuts and hot chestnuts. Af- ter dinner liquors with ac- companying glasses were at the disposal of the men and they made good use of both. When it was time to leave, everyone knew that they would repeat the entire pro- cess during the afternoon of the next day, Christmas. (Continued on Page 15) Start the New Year with Winter Learn to Skate Classes at 12 Greater Boston Rinks Winter Learn-To-Skate classes are currently being of- fered at 12 Greater Boston Rinks for children ages 4 1/2 through adults. Separate skill classes are held at the be- ginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Skaters can wear either figure or hockey skates. Each class includes a small group lesson and supervised practice. Instructors are pro- fessional and patient! Locations include Brookline, Cambridge, Hyde Park/ Dedham, Medford, Newton-Brighton, Quincy, Somerville, South Boston, Waltham, West Roxbury and Weymouth. Gift Certificates are available! Register online at Or call Bay State Skating School (781) 890-8480. Come Skate and Feel Great! Res Publica (Continued from Page 2) The lesson? It's just a movie! Enjoy them both, or whichever ones you choose to watch this holiday season. Santa's list does not include your political affiliation, but he does have a lump of coal for those who would strip our public life of all sense of Wonder at the Love of God and thankfulness for all Miracles big and small. David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End. The Socially Set (Continued Scoring 96.1 out of a possible 100, the 148-room hotel was classified as "excellent" in all areas of the competition including rooms, service, dining, loca- tion and overall design. More than 25,000 online survey responses were tabulated to determine the winners of the "2010 Readers' Choice Awards," one of the highest honors in the travel industry. Susanne Hatje, General Manager, said, "It's a tre- mendous honor to have our hotel which just celebrated our 2 "d year anniversary rec- ognized by the discerning readership of Conde Nast Traveler. I'm especially proud that our dedicated team has achieved this ac- colade, kept our ranking from last year and jumping to 204 place in the world. We from Page 9) look forward to delighting our guests for many more years to come." Located in the heart of the chic Back Bay on Boylston Street, the intimate, luxuri- ous hotel, combines classic New England elegance with refined Oriental touches to create one of the most distinctive hospitality expe- riences in the region. For more information about the hotel, please visit www. Enjoy! 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