Have you ever been surrounded by people and yet still felt so lonely that your heart chakra ached? That is how I felt this morning. I am in sunny Ecuador, met a super italo-ecuadoriana, am staying with great friends but feel a gaping hole in my heart. At first I thought I was home sick – I never get home sick. Than I thought it was because my zia in Flagtown had a stroke yesterday and I am a continent away. Shazaam – it hit me -I was feeling lonely because I didn’t have a sense of community here. No “tribe” to connect with. All that depressive thinking made me hunger for comfort – comfort food – bread like I can only find at Diglio Panificio in Pontelandolfo! Diglio’s not only kept us in thick crusty bread but also was one of my connections to the community – it was a place I didn’t feel like a stranger or alone.
Some mornings I would walk down the hill just to buy a round of bread and if the Panificio wasn’t busy, I would talk to the owner, Nicola Diglio. My Italian isn’t the best but we would talk about the village, economy, USA, whatever. Nicola never made fun of my attempts to pronounce the pastries or how long it took me to decide which pizza slices to bring home in the morning for our night time snacks. That bakery was one of the anchors of the community for me.
Some Wednesdays after strolling through the market, my cousin Carmella and I would take a shopping break by going to Diglio’s for a cappuccino, a little nosh and a lot of laughter. Carmella is a bright star in my universe and of course she introduced me to this pasticceria.
According to their brochure, Diglio opened its doors in 1983 with a commitment to use recipes handed down form generation to generation. When you visit Italy, you can find the shop at 2, Via Eglido Gentile, 82027 Pontelandolfo (BN). It truly is a pasticceria artigiana – when you watch the video you’ll agree with me.
While selecting pictures for the video I saw one of the Diglio’s little sandwiches on scrumptious rolls and got a little misty. Zap – flash back to my dad’s first cousin, Giuseppina, insisting we stop at Diglio’s so she could buy the sandwiches before l’avventura. Jack and I take Giussipina and her sister Paulina on road trip adventures. They pick the place to go – it’s always a shrine – there are tons in our area. Since we never saw a shrine and loved listening to the two of them chatter and laugh at us, we would go to shrines – with bags of Diglio yummy mini sandwiches.
Then I flashed back to 1995. when I first knocked on Giussipina’s door, pointed at my family tree and said in pidgin Italian “tu sei il cugino di mio padre?”. That timid knock resulted in finding my extended family and celebrating with what – pastries from Diglio.
Whenever I bought pastries I would marvel at the way they are presented – perched on a golden cardboard tray and gingerly wrapped in pretty paper. The presentation always made any day that you bought a pastry feel like a special day. Some days I just need a special day and a sfogliatella prettily wrapped can be just the medicine it takes to turn the grey sky into blue.
This past June was the first time I had Il Rusticacio – a small bread puff made with cheese, egg and salame. When I bit into one I swear I felt my grandmother hugging me. People have been eating – what we call artigianale – dough filled things for generations. The connection I feel in Pontelandolfo to my family is intense and eating food made with ancient recipes makes the connection even tighter. Is that my grandmother pinching my cheeks?
One day I went into the shop and Nicola’s son, Antonio, who is a super creative part of the artistic bakery team was behind the counter. The door opened and his daughter came in from school – she looked at me, I looked at her and recognition twinkled in both our eyes. She said “Good Morning – How are You?” The secret phrase I told the kids in the public school that I worked with to say to me whenever they saw me. Boom – an even bigger connection to the bakery.
Community – that is what I need in order to feel secure, happy and healthy. When I am in Pontelandolfo – we go back May 1st – walking into Diglio Panificio yields more than just a loaf of bread. Enjoy the video!