This is Gerry Barbaresi, brother of Dora Barbaresi (my Nonni). He was the youngest of the seven, and arrived on the scene in 1927 (the original family portrait was taken two years before he was born). I have no idea when this particular shot was taken, but I’m going to say 1940 just to keep my fragile chronology intact.
Gerry was the only son and the only one of his siblings to be able to go to college. There, he met his future wife, Regina Lipowski. Growing up in a household full of Italian women, Gerry was also the only one who married a non-Italian (he was no fool). After graduation, he started working as a teacher and eventually worked his way up to Superintendent of Schools in New Haven and, later, New Fairfield, CT.
Gerry was well known for his sharp wit. He loved crescia, the traditional Easter bread from the Marches region of Italy where his parents were born. Nonni often made crescia for him, and she remembers Gerry giving his wife a hard time when it came to sharing his beloved loaves. He used to say to Regina, “My sister made this for me. You let your sister make you crescia.” Regina didn’t have any sisters. She was an only child. Of Polish immigrants. “Go ask your sister to do it,” he would say. “My sister will do it for me, your sister will do it for you.”
Gerry passed away in 1998. Regina still lives in the New Haven area where she, Nonni, my dad, my boys, the Easter Bunny, and I hope to all get together this weekend. I’ll be bringing crescia. I promise to share.
Nonni’s recipe for this Parmesan pepper bread makes five loaves. If this seems like a ridiculous amount of bread, then I’ve failed to express how much the people in my family love it. You can cut the recipe in half, or store the extra loaves in the freezer wrapped in foil inside an airtight freezer bag.
7 cups flour
6 cups grated Parmesan cheese
½ lb. fresh yeast*
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 stick butter, melted
¾ cup oil
Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease 5 medium loaf pans.
In the largest bowl you can find (or a stockpot), mix together flour, cheese, and black pepper. With your fingers, crumble yeast as finely as you can and mix. In a large bowl, beat eggs with butter and oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir together until well mixed, but do not knead. Cover and let rise for 1 hour at room temperature. Divide dough into pans and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
*A note about yeast: I know a half-pound of yeast seems like a mistake, but it’s not. I must have asked Nonni more than a dozen times to check this figure before I tested the recipe. Usually, by the 14th conversation, I’ve gotten the straight story. Sure enough, the recipe works as written. The best and most cost-effective thing to do is get fresh yeast from your local bakery, which is what Nonni does and what I, in turn, did. It comes in 1 pound bricks, which you can ask them to cut in half, and they might charge you anywhere from $1 to $4. If you’re smart, you’ll ask for a few cannoli on the side. Everyone wins.
Dora [Barbaresi] Donroe
New Haven, Connecticut
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