Ravioli is a traditional southern Italian favorite. In 1960, Italian families like the Smaldones would make their own from scratch rather than buy them pre-made or frozen as people do these days.
Within the family, there was always a debate about which tasted better, round ravioli or square ones. Del, who you will meet in our story, was a big advocate of round ravioli. She had a special glass, which she got in a free jelly give-away of the times, that she swore made the perfect size round ravioli. She would use its open side to cut out round pieces of dough from giant sheets of dough she would make for parties such as New Year’s Eve.
Her sister Carmela, however, thought square ravioli were more modern and so tasted better. She swore by a dough cutting wheel she used to make square ravioli from her dough. Often two or more of the sisters would come together for big events like the New Year’s Eve party, and make ravioli together, all the while debating whose would be better tasting — even though they all used the same ingredients — egg flour and water for the dough, and ricotta cheese.
So when Del says in our story, “we have the ravioli, round and square,” it’s her way of calling for family unity on a special night. Let’s put aside our differences and eat together, she’s saying.
Another family pasta debate involved tubular Italian pasta, known as ziti, mostoccoli or penne among other names, revolving around the grooved lines some of those pasta traditionally carry.
Sister Faye hated any pasta with lines, saying it made the taste uneven. She would refuse to eat it, no matter what arguments her sisters or others made for her. In later life, when she had a nephew doing her shopping on occasion, she would send him back to the store to return any lined pasta he mistakenly bought.