When I was a child, one of my earliest recollections of my “identity” as an Italian was watching my father and my uncle hang sausage in my uncle’s attic to dry, filled with the rich smells of the ground pork, the pungent fennel, the aromas of the spicy peperoncino. From that moment in time, I always thought of my Italian identity as one directly associated with food. We even make this association in American society, as we think every Italian we meet can cook, am I right?
My family (and the DelGrosso surname) originates from a town in Italy named Colle Sannita. My Great Great Grandfather was Guissepantonio DelGrosso, and his wife, my Great Great Grandmother, was Pasqualina Viola.
They gave birth, to my Great Grandfather, Giorgio DelGrosso, who went on to marry Innocenza DiMuccio who then gave birth to my Grandfather, Giovanni DelGrosso. My Grandfather, together with his mother, and his brother, Antonio, immigrated to the United States in November of 1907 on a ship from Naples, Italy called the Principe de Piemonte (which, interestingly, was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in 1917). From there, my Grandfather went on to marry Michelina DiMatteo and they had 6 children, one of which was my father Robert DelGrosso. I will save the family history of the DiMatteo family for another time, for now I want to salute the town of Colle Sannita, my homeland!
I have been told that there are two distinct branches of the DelGrosso’s from Colle Sannita, one of noble pedigree, and the other of peasantry. I imagine that since my family left Colle Sannita for a better future, we were lesser of the two branches of DelGrosso’s! In fact, there are still many DelGrosso’s in Colle Sannita today! The typical surnames of Colle Sannita are Del Grosso, Palmiero, Zeolla, Viola, Tosto, Iacobaccio, Piccirillo, Vessecchia, Mutino, Zerrillo, Nista, Boscarelli, D’Emilia, Nigro, Pannella, D’Agostino, Basile, Iamarino, Marino, Tedesco, Finella, Finelli, Di Paola, Martuccio, Scrocca, Pilla, Piacquadio, Mascia, Petriella, Viscio, Vignogna, (Alderisio, Paolucci, de Paulis, Meomartini, Palmieri, Grasso, Piacquadio and del Grosso were the nobles families of Colle in the past), and another famous American family the Basilone’s. Anyone ever hear of John Basilone?
Colle Sannita is small town in the Province of Benevento in the Italian region of Campania. It is located about 80 km northeast of Naples. The name of the town derives from the “hill”, where the historical center of the town lies and its history goes as far back as Norman times (1340’s). It is a beautiful town on a hill!
I have fortunately been able to make numerous connections to my past through my new friends (and possibly family!) in Italy. The pictures posted here were taken by one of those friends, Fabio Paolucci, who also was able to help me trace my family history as he is also a genealogist! He is the administrator of the Facebook group called Colle Sannita! Collesi e oriuni di Colle nel mondo! Fabio has also sent us the gift of a dish typical of Colle Sannita:
(Piatto tipico di Colle Sannita)
Yield: 6 people
- 1 kg. Durum Wheat Flour
- 1 egg
- Put the flour on a surface and make a well. Crack the egg in the center of the well and add the water a bit at a time.
- Pull the flour into the well a bit at a time until it is completely incorporated.
- Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, until it is firm.
- Cover and let dough rest for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough making the “pettola”, that is the dough rolled out to a thickness of 6-7 cm.
- Cut into 2-3 cm strips. Then cut each strip into small pieces.
- Each piece must then be “dug” (“cavato” hence the name cavatelli) with three fingers (index, middle, ring finger)
- Place them on a lightly floured baking sheet until ready to cook (You can freeze them by placing the sheet in the freezer first so they freeze separated, then placing the frozen cavatelli into a storage or freezer bag.
- Serve with a ragu and a sprinkle of parmigiano and a basil leaf.
Ragu ai Braciole
(Tipico di Colle Sannita)
- 4 veal chops or cutlets, pounded flat
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggino, grated
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped fine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 cup White Wine
- Fresh Light Tomato Sauce
- Fresh Basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare veal by pounding them thin and flat.
- Season with salt and pepper and spread some cheese and parsley on each chop.
- Roll up each chop and secure with some butchers twine (3 pieces of twine should do)
- Heat some oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat and brown the Braciole on each side.
- When all are nice and browned, add the white wine and reduce to its almost completely dry.
- Cook for an additional 10 minutes, Add the tomato sauce and the basil, season to taste. Serve with the cavatelli!