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Zeppole

While much of the country is all hopped up on green beer and pretending to be Irish, the Italian-American community is waiting for their own special feast two days later: Saint Joseph’s Day.

The story goes that during the Middle Ages, Sicily was in a severe drought. Sicilians prayed for Mary’s husband, Saint Joseph, to help. When rain finally arrived, the island’s residents held a feast in his honor.

The people of Sicily—a poorer area of Italy—made a humble yet delicious dessert the best they could: the deep-fried, cream-filled zeppole.

“Before Easter in the spring, chickens lay a lot of eggs. So the people, they had flour, they had eggs, they had oil,” says Gino Mozzicato, a Sicilian immigrant whose eponymous bakery has been making the dessert since opening in the ’70s.

“They say, what are we gonna put inside? Because on the farm years ago, they had milk to make fresh cheese, ricotta. So they mix ricotta and fill up the zeppole the way they can.”

Mozzicato’s begins taking orders for Saint Joseph’s Day beginning in February. While the traditional style is still made with ricotta cream, other flavors like chocolate and vanilla have become popular.

You’re not required to be Italian to try one, though it helps to be wearing red, the official Saint Joseph’s Day color.

—Nick Caito

Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery and Pastry Shop, 329 Franklin Ave., Hartford, 860- 296-0426, mozzicatobakery.com