Allegretti's carrying on Sicilian tradition

March 16, 2012 8:34:28 PM PDT
It's hard to feel sorry for someone being so busy, especially in a recession. But this weekend, the staff at Allegretti's in Norridge, probably won't be sleeping much. They'll be stuck in the kitchen: frying, slicing, piping and garnishing.

All in an effort to carry on a Sicilian tradition that has exploded in popularity beyond their wildest dreams.

This weekend, the tiny fryer at Allegretti's Bakery in Norridge will get a workout unlike it sees any other week of the year. That's because it's St. Joseph's Day on the 19th, which means Sunday will be a long shift.

"My brother will probably start frying about 11:30 at night and not stop frying until 2 in the afternoon the next day, without a break. He just fries and fries and fries. We fill 'em to order and make 'em by hand," said Tom Allegretti.

The zeppole, as it's called, has been a part of the annual Sicilian feast for more than a century.

"Traditionally, they started out as small, fried little doughnuts, like a beignet style and it progressed into what we have now, which is more of a pastry-style treat," Allegretti said.

But that pastry is relatively modest, created without any sugar; you'll see why in a second.

"It's a much lighter texture and it's more egg in the dough than you have in a paczki, which when you fry it, you're going to get air pockets and it's going to open up," he said.

In fact that interior almost resembles a popover in its laciness. Once the zeppole are fried on both sides, rendering it slightly browned, they are sliced in half, then filled with a sweet pastry cream - one of the main reasons the dough is neutral. Also, there are filling choices, such as traditional cherries or even pineapple and strawberry. Even more pastry cream is piped on top, followed by a small indicator or sample, of what the filling is beneath. Finally, a shower of powdered sugar.

"We basically started with just custard and cherries, and then it evolved. People wanted strawberry, they wanted chocolate, they wanted the cannoli filling. Of course, you give them what they want," said Allegretti.

And they give them quite a bit of what they want this weekend, with estimates well into the thousands. It seems the humble pastry has a lot more fans than just those from the Italian community.

"Traditionally, they would powder sugar it, cinnamon sugar, put honey over the top in the old days, until it progressed into what we have now," he said.

The bakery will be open on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Monday, when they're normally closed, they'll be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Allegretti's Bakery
7717 W. Lawrence Ave., Norridge
(708) 453-4412