1 Million lbs. of Mozzarella Cheese + 500,000 Gallons of Sauce =
The filling for 60 million Panzarotti’s!
Can you believe that’s how many have been sold over the last 50 years? Mama Tarantini would be proud of those amazing stats! We understand, who wouldn’t be crazy about those little inside out pizzas – those fried dough pockets of cheesy and saucy goodness that were introduced to this area in 1979 at the Italian Festival? They have been a Festival favorite ever since!
We had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Mr. Al Fierro, formerly of Fierro Cheese on Union Street, who has been operating the Panzarotti Stand with his family since 1979. He shared the story about how Father Robert approached him for food service assistance for the Festival and so began the evolution of the Panzarotti and his mother’s famous Ricotta Cheese Puffs.
The Festival of 1979 was the first for the Panzarotti Stand and for the first 3 days, the fryer didn’t work. Some of the old-timers found this amusing, but they more than made up for it when the fryers were fixed. They had a line of Festival goers starting from the Midway around the block ready to taste Mama Fiero’s Ricotta Puffs and Mrs. Tarantini’s Panzarotti’s.
The once hand-made Ricotta Cheese Puffs were so popular that the News Journal requested and printed the recipe… only to forget one key ingredient – the flour! The phone was ringing off the hook at the cheese factory with folks trying to remake the tasty little treats. It got to the point where Al’s Father and Uncle would just answer the phone “add 1 cup of flour”. They’ve been talking and joking about that for years. Since the popularity of the Puffs was so great, they built a special ricotta fryer and hand cranked machine to keep up with the demand.
Panzarotti to Macarotti to Crabarotti …
Al said he loves to experiment and try new things each year: pizza fritta, stuffed bread and fried cheesecake, to name a few. Some things stick and some things go away. Then there’s the evolution of the Panzarotti – starting with the Cheese Panzarotti to the Pepperoni Panzarroti then the MACarotti and now the newest member to the Panzarotti family – the CRABarotti. The Macarotti was an experiment that Al didn’t think would stick until he got numerous phone calls from people wanting more. Last year’s experiment was the Crabarotti~with a slight tweaking of the sauce, these babies were good to go and selling like hot cakes~they can’t make enough.
Many have tried to mimic the Panzarotti not realizing that there’s a secret recipe for the dough and that, my friends, is why there’s just no substitute. The Panzaratti Stand purchases their Panzarotti’s from the Tarantini Family and for the stand’s original selections, they purchase the shells and stuff them by hand.
At this point, the stand can fry 50 Panzarotti’s every 3-4 minutes, because of the number of fryers that they have picked up over the years from auctions and restaurant closings. The Panzarotti fryers are used strictly for Panzarotti’s and utilize pure cottonseed oil. In order to be ensure that the flavor isn’t compromised, they take the time not to cross cook anything at the stand and each item is cooked in their own special oil.
When asked about offering a Gluten Free option – Al responded “everyone asks that question. It’s tough to do. So we tell everyone…if it’s not a health issue then put your blinders on this week and enjoy”.
NEW THIS YEAR
Mac n Jack Bites ~ Bite size macaroni and jack cheese with bacon and jalapenos
The FAT Louie ~ Belgium waffle wrapped around a stick, dipped in chocolate and once its hardened, it’s topped off with Caramel, Strawberry and Whipped Cream. This delicious concoction was named after Al’s FAT CAT, LOUIE. When trying to decide on the name it just came to him, “We’ve got some fat Louie’s here”.
We’re so proud of all the kids who have worked the stand through the years…trustworthy and polite with a great work ethic. I look back and can go through and each one has become successful. He looks back as doctors, lawyers, CIA agents etc. Every kid has been remarkable.
Al and some other family members continue the tradition his father and uncle started in the late 50’s early 60’s – when they would sponsor a lasagna night during what was called the “carnival” back then. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun and we see people we don’t get to see all year. It does raise a lot of money and helps to raise a lot of money for the Church”.
Check out Al and the rest of his friends/family at “The Panzaratti Stand” located on N. Scott Street betweem 9th & 10th, during the Italian Festival, now through Father’s Day Sunday, June 16th.
This is Real Grubbin’ according to the Food Network’s Aaron McCargo Jr.!
From a working immigrant mother in the 1960s to a wide-spread following and large distribution line, Tarantini is the family that started it all.
The Original Tarantini Panzarotti™ first came to America with Pauline Tarantini, an Italian immigrant and mother of 10. She learned how to make these unique, delicious treats from her mother when she was just seven years old back in Brindisi, Italy.
After immigrating to the United States, Mrs. Tarantini’s family incurred a financial crisis in 1960. Ever resourceful, Mrs. Tarantini began frying her panzarottis by hand from her Camden, New Jersey home, after which her husband, Leopold, peddled them at gas stations and other local establishments for 25 cents a piece. Occasionally, the Tarantini’s gave out free Panzarottis to neighborhood kids, and by evening, the kids would be back for more along with their intrigued parents.
By 1963, her Panzarotti was becoming so popular by just word-of-mouth that the Tarantini’s purchased a store a few doors from their home. Soon afterwards, they designed their own customized equipment to mass-produce the panzarotti, but precise enough to maintain the original home-made quality.
Now, almost 50 years after Mrs. Tarantini took out her frying pan and captured a hungry audience, the Tarantini family carries on the tradition – ensuring this delicious creation is still served as an authentic, unique taste of Italy.