Food & Cooking

Cooking for St. Jude in the quarantine, while a tree rises at Sacred Heart | Pamela’s Food Service Diary

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On a Sunday in this column, the hope is to deliver encouraging, positive news about our food community and maybe a little beyond it. Hopefully, since March, our chats have prompted a laugh or smile from you and the reality that not all is bad in our COVID-19 world. So with that, let’s spotlight one great thing to come of the pandemic — the unlikely yet sweet relationships formed as people sought their way out of those dark, surreal days of quarantine.

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Quarantine Cuisine is a compilation of recipes from a blog that sprang up in the COVID-19 quarantine stage. Pamela SilvestriPamela Silvestri

That sentiment leads us to a recently self-published cookbook brought to us by Camille Pizzo of Willowbrook, the founder of a tight-knit Facebook community known as “Quarantine Cuisine.” That page claims about 4,200 members at the moment and offers an incredible body of work collected primarily from Staten Islanders, Brooklynites, Long Island residents and those from the Garden State. So these are distinctly regional recipes through which to cull.

Pizzo approves members one at a time. She said, “The page grew by people recommending people. It grew into other countries. People were enjoying the respect on the page. Everyone felt they were part of a group and they felt safe.”

By the time the cookbook idea came about, the new author admits that the task of replicating recipes was scary. Pizzo aimed to capture exact flavors and the true essence of each formula. She picked over 50 Quarantine Cuisine blog posts for the publication, cooking or baking each with a “test kitchen committee” comprised of Lucille Desiano, Antonella Recchia, Lucy, Lucy Scalici and Loredana Lentini-Sherman. Pizzo’s team also included editors Marian Cirillo and Gerri Silver.

All proceeds from the book go to the St. Jude Children’s Foundation. The cost of the cookbook is $20 through Venmo or cash on delivery with pickup sites on Staten Island, Brooklyn, Valley Stream, L.I. and at Camille’s brother Charlie Mule’s restaurant at TST Barbecue 910 Rte. 36, Leonardo, N.J. Shipped orders cost an additional $8.45 to cover postage and packaging. Call or text Camille at 917-662-8968 for more information.

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Sacred Heart R.C.Church. (Courtesy of Fr. Eric Rapaglia)Pamela Silvestri

With a great love for the holiday season, we’ve been following the festive Christmas tree developments in front of Sacred Heart R.C. Church.

Resident pastor Fr. Eric Rapaglia shared some images of the almost three-story spruce and explained some of the details of the decorating.

He said, “The lighted tree is the result of the generosity of Tom Newmann, a parishioner, who owns Newmann’s Tree Services. The Holy Name Society, men’s group of the parish, got in touch with ‘Tommy Trees,’ as we call him, and he came down with his truck and cherry-picker to put the lights on and the tree-topper.”

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How the tree was decorated (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)

An electrician set up a new outlet nearby to accommodate the tree and the Nativity scene, all coordinated by the Holy Name Society. A talented Billy Rautenstrauch made the star himself for the crown.

Fr. Eric enthused, “By means of this project, we wanted to say with Christian joy after a very trying year: our faith is still strong! Praised be Jesus Christ!”

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James Cavagnaro, 11, has his poker face on (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)Pamela Silvestri

And if it’s not the irony of quarantine bringing a bond then it is the snow. We played Texas Hold ‘Em on Wednesday night while the wind howled outside. With no school the next day, the boys went to bed on the late side. Sure we were pooped by Thursday but were thankful for our good neighbor Nick who helped plow a good swath of our West Brighton block without dropping a cigarette.

Keep in touch.

Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Neighbor Nick plowing snow in West Brighton (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)Pamela Silvestri