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La Vigilia di Yom Kippur


There are two kinds of ethnic, or minority cookbooks: Those written to help foreigners and other outsiders recreate the dishes, and those aimed at the home front, written to help community members maintain their traditions.

The latter become especially important when the communities in question have been devastated, as happened to the Italian Jewish communities that lived north of the Front on September 8 1943, the date of the Fascist collapse that left half of Italy in Nazi hands. The Germans hadn't been able to round up anyone prior to September 8 thanks to the bureaucratic ineptness of the Italians (Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law and Minister of the Interior, disapproved of the Final Solution and had his functionaries drag their feet), but they did know who the Jews were and began deporting them as soon as they had direct control, along with hundreds of thousands of "treasonous" Italian soldiers and all sorts of other objectionable people, few of whom survived.

Giuliana Ascoli Vitali-Norsa's La Cucina nella Tradizione Ebraica (Giuntina Editore, 1998; ISBN 88-85943-41-1) falls into the second category of book. As one might expect, she doesn't devote much space to discussing holidays or other cultural tidbits, any more than a friar writing a cookbook for his Order would -- she expects her readers to already be familiar with these things, and has enough ground to cover without getting sidetracked. She does however give briefly commented sample menus for the major holidays.

For Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement that brings the ten days of Rosh-Ha-Shanà to a close, she says: "It's a particularly solemn day, with a rigorous fast that goes from Sunset of the 9th of Tishrì to the evening of the 10th. For the vigil of Yom Kippur it's customary to serve an abundant, unspiced meal. To break the fast, sweets with coffee or tea, followed shortly thereafter by a light meal."

A Traditional Italian Vigil Meal:

Biscotti Sumsum
Sesame seed cookies for breaking the Fast.

Tagliolini o Ricciolini in Brodo
Noodles in broth, classic and simple. These are instructions for making Ricciolini at home.

Triglie con Uvette e Pinoli
Reef Mullet, with raisins and pine nuts. A Roman Jewish dish that likely dates back to ancient times.

Pinzette o Pizzette Ebraiche al Marsala
Simple meat patties, floured and fried, and a variation on them with heart.

Polpettone di Tacchino
Turkey loaf simmered in broth, a classic and quite simple recipe.

Zucca Disfatta
Pureed squash.

Melanzane Sott'Olio
Eggplant packed in oil with seasonings and herbs.

Dictinobis e Zabaione
Doughnuts, and Zabaione to dip them in.

A rustic sweet made with toast, sugar, spices, and wine, to break the fast.

More information on Italian Judaism
  • Italian Hanukkah Recipes
    And thoughts about Italian Judaism
  • Felice Pesah!
    Italian Passover Recipes
  • Stuart Borken's Passover Desserts
    An absolutely mouth-watering collection of desserts (and more) kindly shared by Dr. Stu.
  • Passover in Rome
    Sims Brannon discusses the differences between Seders of the Italian Jewish communities and those elsewhere, and also suggests a number of Roman Jewish restaurants.
  • In Search of Artichokes
    A delightfully whimsy account of exploring the Roman ghetto in search of the national Jewish dish.
  • Ostia Antica
    An excellent self-guided walking tour, from Initaly Online. Also mentions the Synagogue, the earliest known outside of the Middle East.
  • Carciofi Alla Romana
    Rosemary learned how to love (and stuff) artichokes from the vendors in Rome's markets.
  • Pitigliano
    The Tuscan Jerusalem, a beautiful Tuscan town with a flourishing Jewish community until the War. The site discusses history, foods and wines.

Buon Appetito!
Kyle Phillips

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