by Vincent Schiavelli
Vincent Schiavelli’s enchanting, sometimes deeply moving memoir with recipes, Bruculinu, America, is a warmly recalled distortion of Brooklyn, one of New York City’s boroughs, as it really was. As Schiavelli says, “The stories may not always contain the strict facts, but they certainly tell the truth.” Don’t be surprised if his beautiful reminiscence of the miracle (which took place before he was born!) that saved his uncle Salvatore Calogero from dying of pneumonia brings a tear to your eye. Schiavelli, a successful actor, writes scenes so vividly that you participate as he visits a strega, or witch, who exorcised him of a medical problem when he was nine years old. (After seeing a doctor, Schiavelli’s mother figured that in case the condition was caused by malocchio, the evil eye, it would be wise to cover all bases). Schiavelli’s recollections often involve his grandfather, Papa Andrea, a Sicilian master chef. The 70 or so recipes in this enchanting book come from him. The Baked Mashed Potatoes made with peas and grated cheese and fennel-flavored Pasta with Chickpeas are delicious everyday dishes. Baked Macaroni, rich with mushrooms, ground meat, and a touch of cinnamon, is for Sundays. Cucciaddatu are the buttery, log-shaped Christmas cookies filled with nuts and raisins that each Sicilian cook makes in his or her own way.