Concetta checks the pizza sponge as Angela makes the sauce.
Twice a month, Concetta Cucinotta and Angela Molinario spend the day making pizza for their family in the kitchen of Cucinotta’s home in Dedham.
By Debra Samuels
Globe Correspondent / August 12, 2009
DEDHAM – The old yellow plastic tub, covered with a soft, well-worn blanket, sits on Concetta Cucinotta’s kitchen table. You can almost see the blanket moving. Under it, a mound of yeasty, bubbly dough is spilling, like molten lava, over the sides of the tub. Lively Italian folk music is coming from a CD player and Cucinotta periodically breaks into song.
It’s pizza day for Cucinotta and her sister, Angela Molinario, a ritual that takes place twice a month. The sisters spend the day shopping, cooking, and feeding their families – along with anyone else who shows up. The crowd is rarely fewer than 15.
Cucinotta, in a flowered apron, starts to tame the dough. With a flick of her wrist, she scatters flour onto a big board and kneads the mass into submission. When you start with 10 pounds of flour, this is no simple feat. She makes quick work of forming six pieces for bread, six for pizza, and at least one mound for the Sicilian calzone called scaciadda (ska-cha-da).
The sisters immigrated to the United States in the early 1970s from the village of Saponara near Messina, Sicily. Their mother, Maria Gangemi, always made pizza for the family; the daughters have continued the tradition for the last nine years. Molinario is a seamstress in Lexington; Cucinotta, now retired, worked on the housekeeping staff of Children’s Hospital Boston.
Today, they’re making sauce and toppings that include sausage, onions, peppers, and pepperoni. Molinario sautes two huge onions in olive oil. When they begin to brown and release their aroma,
she lifts them out of the skillet and stirs tomato paste and two large cans of ground tomatoes into the pan. “That’s the secret,’’ says Molinario. The tomato mixture sizzles and splatters and absorbs the onion flavors left behind. Eventually she returns the cooked onions to the skillet with dried oregano and basil, black pepper, and water.
An ornery stove that’s seen better days doesn’t always deliver consistently high heat, so the sisters jack up the temperature to 550. Somehow it turns out crusty masterpieces with an occasional burnt loaf.
Cucinotta hands off pieces of the dough to her sister, who lays one on a worn rimmed baking sheet. She presses and stretches the dough to fit the rectangular tray. Molinario grates bricks of mozzarella and lays the toppings within easy reach. “They are like a machine, these two,’’ says Enza Hart, Cucinotta’s daughter. Each pizza is spread with sauce and scattered with toppings.
One is cheese only, another pepperoni, and so on. The diminutive duo – both sisters are under 5 feet – make the pies they know their family likes.
Still singing, Cucinotta lets the loaves rise on a floured bed sheet spread on the table, covering them again with the blanket. Her calzone goes into a rectangular baking dish. She rolls a piece of dough and sets half of it in the dish; the rest hangs over the edge. She heaps on onions, potatoes, sausages, and escarole, then folds the soft dough over the top, crimping the edges shut.
Cucinotta’s husband, Giovanni, comes in through the side door. He’s been shopping in the North End and sets down his haul of groceries. Giovanni gets the first hot slice. He pours himself some potent homemade wine. Giovanni points out a photograph of himself, standing in a hard hat on an empty, soon-to-open Zakim Bridge. His daughter explains: “My dad was a construction laborer for 30 years, and he worked on the bridge. His grandkids call it Nonno’s bridge.’’
Those kids are trickling in, along with some nieces. Aunt Angela gives 13-year-old Jennifer Hart a little knot of fried dough dipped in sugar. The phone starts ringing. “Is it ready yet?’’ ask the callers.
Everyone who knows the sisters knows it’s pizza day.
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.