EASTER FEASTS Italian-Style

- What restaurant owners cook up at home for the holiday 

DONNA LEE Journal-Bulletin Food Editor

Apr 15, 1992

WHEN OWNERS of good Italian restaurants have Easter dinner at home, there's sure to be an abundance of great food. Caffe Itri will also have roast goat on their restaurant menu this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

Caffe Itri, 1686 Cranston St., Cranston: Co-owner Joe DeQuattro says, "We'll get together with my mother's family - 25 or 30 people around two tables. We switch houses every year." They'll have chicken escarole soup with meatballs, antipasto, pasta or lasagna, then roast goat. 

His mother, Rita DeQuattro of Johnston, brings desserts such as her delectable rice pie. His partner Greg Spremulli grew up in Knightsville, where his grandfather had a farm and dairy and made farmer cheese and ricotta that are part of Easter meals. Greg's mother Mary is a talented baker who brings pies and breads for Easter; her flaky wine biscuits are sensational. Spremulli's sister-in-law will roast pork or lamb. Relatives may linger until 10 at night. "We take our time with the meal . . . dessert takes hours . . . and people drop in," says Spremulli. 

The meal usually includes dishes his late grandmother used to make, such as celery tops fried in an egg batter, artichokes, cabbage cooked with an Italian ham bone, homemade noodles or ravioli with a tomato sauce, ricotta pie, rice pie, wandies (light, deep-fried knots of pastry) and struffoli. 

Grandma Angie Cantone's Rice Pie 

Sweet Pastry Crust:

1 1/2 cups flour 

1/4 cup margarine 

3 tablespoons sugar 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1 egg, plus enough milk to equal 1/2 cup total liquid 

Cooked cream (recipe follows) 

Rice filling (recipe follows)

For pastry, combine flour, sugar and baking powder. Blend in margarine by rubbing mixture in palms of hands.

Make a well and add milk-egg mixture. Mix until smooth. Form into ball. Cover with wax paper and let stand 30 minutes. Roll out on floured board and fit into 10-inch deep-dish pie plate. 

Cooked Cream:

9 egg yolks 

9 tablespoons sugar 

4 tablespoons cornstarch 

4 1/2 cups milk 

Grated rind from one lemon 

1 teaspoon vanilla 

Combine egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Add lemon rind. Gradually stir in milk and stir over medium heat.

When it starts to boil, simmer and stir for about 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Do not boil hard. 

Add vanilla. Cool. Refrigerate if to be used the next day. Makes 5 to 6 cups, enough for two rice pies. (You could use leftover custard as a pudding.) 

Rice Filling:

3 cups cooked rice 

3 eggs 

1 cup milk 

1/2 cup sugar 

3 cups cooled cooked cream

Combine rice, beaten eggs, milk, sugar and cooked yellow cream. Mix well. Pour into pastry-lined 10-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until center is firm. 

From Rita DeQuattro of Johnston, mother of Joe DeQuattro, co-owner of Caffe Itri in Cranston. The recipe came from her late mother Angie Cantone. 

Mary Spremulli's Wine Biscuits

4 cups flour 

4 teaspoons baking powder 

1 cup oil 

1 cup red burgundy wine 

1 cup sugar 

Egg white for glaze 

Mix flour, baking powder, oil, wine and sugar; let stand about 15 minutes. Roll out about a teaspoonful into a rope and twist like a wreath or knot. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with egg white. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done. 

From the mother of Greg Spremulli, co-owner of Caffe Itri in Cranston. 

Mary Spremulli's Italian Easter Bread

A tall, light-as-a-feather golden sweet bread.

1/4 cup lukewarm water 

1 cake yeast 

4 to 5 cups flour (start with 4, then add whatever it takes for the right consistency) 

1/2 cup sugar 

1/4 cup melted butter or margarine 

4 eggs 

(SEE MEMO ABOVE ) 1/4 cup milk, scalded 

1/4 cup lemon juice (or flavoring of your choice) 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

Confectioners' sugar glaze 

Dissolve yeast in warm water. (One envelope dry yeast could be substituted.) Stir in milk, sugar, salt, eggs, cooled melted margarine. Mix in half the flour. Mix until smooth.

Add just enough remaining flour to make a dough. Mix until smooth.

Place in greased bowl, cover with loosely with dish towel or plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, 2 to 3 hours. 

Punch the dough down. Put into a greased 10-inch round tube pan or cake pan and let rise again. (If you use a round cake pan and want a tube shape, make a hole in center of the dough and insert an empty clean vegetable can that has been greased on the outside. When removed after baking, this will make a nice ring.) Or the dough may be baked in loaves. 

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until done. 

If desired, glaze while warm but not hot, and sprinkle with colored candy confetti. 

Glaze:

Mix 2 cups confectioners' sugar with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, then add up to 2 more tablespoons lemon juice, to desired consistency. 

- An original recipe from Mary Spremulli of Cranston.