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Family of Bakers

  • Thanksgiving & The DiCamillo Family
  • Post author
    Michael DiCamillo

Thanksgiving & The DiCamillo Family

My father’s family embraced Thanksgiving Day as if they themselves had invented it and our family certainly gave it a personal interpretation. The significance for our family of this holiday was established by our grandfather and our bakery’s founder, Tomaso Di Camillo.
Tomaso Di Camillo
He arrived in Niagara Falls, New York on Thanksgiving Day in 1898. It was the end of his journey from the Italian Abruzzo hill-town of Villamagna. A deeply spiritual man, dates, feast days, and omens had deep meaning to him. So the concept of a meal of Thanksgiving appealed to him and its significance was confirmed by his arrival on this quintessential America holiday.
Original Di Camillo Bakery
The Di Camillo Fleet
On Thanksgiving Day the bakery was closed, but only to the public! Living directly above the bakery, on this day the cellar ovens were for our family’s use alone! In fact, family tradition holds that part of our grandfather’s motivation for starting the bakery was the likelihood of a stable food-supply for his large family-- eleven children strong. Our Scaletta “curly” Italian breads, and Biscotti Di Prato were baked early in the day and then put aside. The bakery ovens, still hot from baking our daily fare, were now in the service of the Di Camillo family’s personal Thanksgiving dinner.

The preparations eventually involved nearly every woman in the family. The men were put into service to load the ovens. What remains most vivid for those of us lucky enough to have been present at these wonderful feasts is the memory, not of the traditional Thanksgiving Day turkey, but of a roasted piglet! For my grandfather and his family in Italy this was essential for an important feast. As the years passed, capons, and then finally turkeys themselves did eventually join the Di Camillo family Thanksgiving menu, too. However, the main event was always a roasted piglet that our grandfather, grandmother, and their descendants lovingly prepared, and then conveniently roasted in our bakery ovens! Our parents, aunts, and uncles have regaled us with stories of our grandfather even brushing the teeth of the piglet to make it presentable for the Thanksgiving feast!
The Di Camillo Family interpretation of Thanksgiving Day meal did embrace many of the traditional American courses of potatoes, squashes, sweet potatoes, and eventually even cranberry sauce was admitted. Brussel sprouts were notably never given a place, nor interestingly, were any of their pasta courses served. One traditional American course, bread-stuffing made it close to the top of the list for our family. Although it never actually “stuffed” the cavity of the piglet—or the turkey-- it was always served separately as a baked, crusty, savory side-dish- - very nearly a bread pudding. Certainly the bakery’s day-old Italian Scaletta bread played a part in our family’s embrace of bread-stuffing. Our Scaletta “curly” Italian Breads were always seen as something precious, and day-old bread was always recycled: either ground for bread crumbs or sliced and toasted and buttered for our Biscotti Di Camillo (“Italian crisp-bread”). Our grandparents were very practical-- yet extravagant—people, and bread-stuffing became an early and central component of their Thanksgiving Day meal.

And as children, we were more interested in this delicious, crusty, savory baked bread-stuffing than in the actual meat course it accompanied!

For years we have offered in our retail stores our twice-cut and twice-baked Scaletta “curly” Italian bread for this essential Thanksgiving course. We know of no better beginning for the preparation of bread-stuffing than our Scaletta “curly” Bread.

Our crusty sesame-studded breads make a hearty base for any bread-stuffing recipe, and we are happy to share our family bread stuffing recipe with you as well as offer you the opportunity to purchase our bread no matter where you are on Thanksgiving Day.
             DiCamillo Family celebration 2013
DiCamillo's: Tom, Betty, Angelica & Michael -- the tradition lives on!
  • Post author
    Michael DiCamillo

Comments on this post (4)

  • Dec 12, 2019

    I attended grad school at Notre Dame with Kevin DiCamillo, who, on occasion, would treat a class to his family’s baked goods. Here’s a hello across many miles and many years now to Kevin…happy holidays!

    — Donal Kevin Gordon

  • Dec 12, 2019

    Happy Thanksgiving DiCamillo’s! Thanks to Michael for writing this history. Tony, my husband, sent this story to me and it is wonderful to read and know some more of his extended family history. He is related to Aunt Helen, David and Monica through the Plec’s and we have precious memories of their visits to Michigan to see Eleanor. They always brought a trunkload of delicious bakery items too! DiCamillo’s gave me a love for butter cookies with pecans. I was hoping to see their pictures in here, but I’m glad to “know” you now. Have a blessed holiday.
    Love,
    Jennifer Plec

    — Tony and Jennifer Plec

  • Dec 12, 2019

    A wonderful story! I’ve been a mail order customer of yours for years, for myself, and gifts for friends and family. I was finally able to visit a DiCamillo bakery a couple of years ago while visiting the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area. Happy Thanksgiving to the DiCamillo family!

    — Anna Y. Beahon

  • Oct 12, 2018

    I loved reading these family stories. I am in the early stages of researching my family history, and when I googled “DiCamillo in Vasto, Italy” your website came up. It’s a wonderful website, so many stories of interesting family members….what a great family! I also have a Teresa (Ragni) DiCamillo in my family…she was my grandfathers mother. Her husband was Silvio and his father was Sebastiano. They immigrated from the town of Vasto in the Abruzzo region, and settled in NYC. I love your family history, and would love to discover that I am also related! Now I will place my order!

    — Barbara DiCamillo Madden

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