Betty Di Camillo King
Di Camillo Family, Circa 1934
My grandmother, who was a skillful cook, loved cooking big, elaborate meals-- and with seven daughters, she had quite a staff to assist. Some of my most vivid memories growing up were the family parties held at my grandmother's apartment over our old store on Fourteenth Street in Niagara Falls.
Original 14th Street Store Niagara Falls, NY, Circa 1925
These repasts were fascinating events for my brothers, cousins, and me. The preparations were days in the making. My mother, aunts, and grandmother, were totally immersed in the cooking. My aunt Angelica and aunt Theresa were always in charge of the beautiful table preparations -linens. silver and a fruit arrangement being de rigueur! There were always at least two meat dishes, countless vegetables, the obligatory pasta, pounds of potatoes, and, of course, an extraordinary bread assortment.
And then the final presentation: the piglet had cherries in its eyes, and a red ripe apple in its mouth. These parties we never forgot, never could forget. With three piano-players, a mezzo-soprano, and a tenor in the family, there was always a floor-show of singing and music that preceded and followed these celebrations. My brothers, cousins and I were amazed as our aunts and uncles became a virtual vaudeville act. Our family has always taken advantage of the fact that we had a bakery. It was, as I've mentioned in an earlier blog, practically part of my grandparents' business-plan to keep eleven children employed and fed. From the earliest times, the bakery ovens have helped to cook many a piglet (and more!) for our family celebrations.
Aunt Gorgeous looking gorgeous at 90
Recently our Aunt Angelica, one of the original eleven of my father's sisters and brothers, celebrated her ninetieth birthday. "Aunt Gorgeous", (as she instructed us as children to call her--and this was long before Barbara Streisand!) has worked in the bakery since she was sixteen and is, to this very day, still at her desk or in the Linwood Avenue store. Every family should have their own "Auntie Mame." We hand "Aunt Angelica" our stylish, over the top aunt, who never missed our birthday parties! With only three of the original Di Camillo eleven left.
Angelica DI Camillo, Joe Di Camillo, Philip Alterio, Theresa Di Camillo, Katie Di Camillo Alterio, Barbara Di Camillo, Jerri Di Camillo
My cousin Betty, spear-headed a family party to celebrate this milestone--and to give the new generations of Di Camillos a taste of a family tradition that we have always cherished-- A Di Camillo Party!
Di Camillo Family
From the very beginning of my cousin Betty's plans for Aunt Gorgeous' Birthday party, she insisted on a piglet-- as she said, "that's a Di Camillo thing!" I must admit I dragged my feet on that point, as my house was the where we were having the party! All I could imagine was the difficulty of cooking a whole pig-a procedure that takes about seven hours! However, as the pictures attest, the pig helped make it an unforgettable event. All the family joined in contributing at least a course or two. Thankfully, my brother, Tom, our master-baker, who is never as happy as when he has an oven in front of him, cooked the pig in my backyard.
The pig wound up serving sixty adults and fourteen children under the age of ten! The party poster was a huge success. I have a wonderful studio photo of Aunt Angelica. She was seventeen when the photo was taken. I have never been able to find a use for it in my chronicling of this family. This party offered the perfect venue. I had it enlarged to poster size and hung it over the table.
But this was only the beginning of its use. I soon realized her head could be superimposed on a nearly life size, vintage nude portrait I have over my fireplace.
She loved it as the pictures attest!
Robin King, Angelica Di Camillo, Michael Di Camillo
Below is our menu from Aunt Gorgeous's party, which essentially amounted to a large family potluck.
Happy Birthday Aunt Gorgeous!
Di Camillo Family The Next Generation
Di Camillo Romano Pizza
Fried Zucchini Flowers
Fresh Fried Potato Chips
Cold Fresh Corn Salad
Fresh Green Salad
Tomato and Basil Salad
Fresh Applesauce with Pear
Fresh-Cut Melon and Fruit Salad
Roasted Peppers and Onions
Dinner-Sized Hard Rolls
Di Camillo Scaletta "Curly" Bread
The Roasted Pig
Di Camillo Silver Pound-Cake Petit Fours