Did you hear? It’s Zeppole season, baby!

Let’s celebrate San Giuseppe, the unofficial patron saint of pastries

It’s March, and you know what that means? Zeppole season has finally arrived in Montreal. Now, the Italian community might disagree on where to get the best zeppole. However, I would like to go back a little bit and explain why the Italian community enjoys this treat at this time of year.

As a third-generation Italian myself, I’ve indulged in this pastry quite a bit. But, I have always been curious about the history behind this dessert.

Zeppole (or zeppola in the singular) are pastries made from a choux pastry base. They are either shaped in a doughnut shape or the more traditional fritter, which are in a rounded shape. The Fine Dining Lovers explain them as such: “It looks more like those trendy cronuts, puffy and torqued, like a braided churro, with deep-fried choux pastry providing a nest of your choice of topping: old school butter and honey, ricotta and chocolate chips, cream, jam, zabaglione — you name it.”

From the day after Valentine’s Day until March 19, St. Joseph’s day, you can enjoy this delightful pastry. According to the New England Historical Society, “St. Joseph, or San Giuseppe, is the foster father of Jesus and the patron saint of Sicily. The story goes that a severe drought struck Sicily in the Middle Ages. The people promised St. Joseph they’d cook a big feast for him if he brought rain. He did, and the tradition was born.”

As outlined in the article, Pope Gregory XV first declared March 19 as the feast of Saint Joseph in 1621.

The zeppole wasn’t always central to the feast. Instead, it was the fava bean that was initially served at St. Joseph’s Day feasts; the fava bean saved the Sicilians from starvation after St. Joseph brought rain to the region. Eventually, the Sicilians transitioned from the fava bean to the zeppole.

According to Fine Dining Lovers, “Some cite the convent of Santa Patrizia in Naples as having first made zeppole (a baked version, rather than deep-fried), back in the 16th century.” However, a baker in the region of Naples, by the name of Pasquale Pintauro, started popularizing the dessert by selling it every March 19.

I went around and visited three local bakeries in the Montreal area and purchased the classic flavors from each place.

My first stop was at Patisserie San Marco, located at 1581 Jean Talon St E. I ordered three ricotta-filled zeppole and three custard-filled ones. When I looked inside the box, the zeppole looked like rounded dough balls, which I wasn’t used to seeing.

Afterward, I made my way to San Pietro Bakery, located at 1950 Jean Talon St E. I was able to talk to Connie Calderone, one of the owners of this family-owned bakery, about the week of Saint Joseph and what it means for her bakery.

“During the Saint Joseph time, we make about 1,500 dozens of zeppole. We also have many restaurants and stores that just buy the empty zeppole shells from us,” Calderone explained, referring to the pastries themselves before they are filled.

I was also permitted access to the back of the bakery where I watched one of the bakers pipe out a whole tray of zeppole.

“Our popular flavors are definitely the ricotta, custard, and pistachio-filled zeppole. However, the pistachio isn’t a traditional filling,” said Calderone. “It means everything to this bakery to keep traditions like selling the zeppole, it’s priority number one. It’s an old-school bakery here, it’s what works and we aren’t going to go backward.”

Finally, I ended my journey at La Conca D’Oro, located at 2550 Jean Talon St E. I purchased two ricotta-filled zeppole, each garnished with a strawberry.

I strongly encourage everyone to support these local bakeries during this time. Remember you don’t have to be Italian to enjoy these delectable treats.


Photos by Dalia Nardolillo


Yum or Yikes: Umami

Little Italy’s new vegan ramen place may not have the best food, but it will feed your soul and make you feel like you just curled up in a duvet blanket on a cold winter evening.

What Umami Ramen doesn’t offer in flavour, it makes up for in cold-weather comfort. The moment my friend and I walked out of a crisp October evening and into the restaurant, I was flooded with relief; the atmosphere was welcoming and soothing, a lovely respite from the piercing wind outside. We didn’t make a reservation but were offered a seat at the bar.

Under warm lighting filtering through wooden lamps, simple menus were brought to us. Umami has limited options; with only four types of ramen to choose from and a handful of appetizer options, even the most indecisive, such as myself, needn’t struggle too hard to choose a dish.

Photo by Noemi Stella Mazurek

We settled on the Tokyo-style Shoyu ramen with the “chicken” Karaage and Kushikatsu panko-breaded veggie skewers as appetizers. Umami takes pride in their house-made noodles, tofu, and ferments, so I was really excited for the meal we were about to enjoy.

The Karaage was addictively crunchy, but without the spicy sesame mayo and lemon juice, a little bland. The veggie skewers were crisp on the outside and steaming on the inside. Aside from the sauce, this appetizer was delicious – the breaded eggplant’s succulent texture was perhaps the highlight of the whole meal – but microscopic! For $7, we were served three skewers with only two pieces of onion, eggplant, or okra each.

Then came the ramen. The noodles were tasty, but not spectacular, and the texture of yuba (tofu skin) was rubbery and unsettling. Sweet, sour, salty and bitter were ticked off by the shiitake, tomates confite, wakame and daikon, with the broth rounding off the palette with its decidedly umami quality. As a whole, the flavours of the toppings balanced each other off nicely, and I fell in love with the broth’s deep, rich, aroma.

Overall, the meal was immensely satisfying: not so much in regards to the food, but with how it made us feel. We left happy and comforted, full but not bloated.

I certainly intend on returning in order to try the other three ramen bowls (and the okonomiyaki cabbage pancake our table neighbours ordered) but, above all, to bask in the restaurant’s comforting ambiance. Umami is a safe haven of warmth and spice, a dining-experience must during the cold weather months.

3.5/5 for food,

3.5/5 for price,

5/5 for service,

5/5 for ambiance.

Exit mobile version