Holy Cross Church at 645 Hartford Avenue on the Johnston-Providence line has a rich Italian-American heritage and a Women’s Guild that is known for their baking skills. That heritage and those skills will be on display for the guild’s annual holiday bake sale.
Linda Gillooly, who chairs the event, announced that the annual bake sale would be held Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15 and 16, in the church’s downstairs auditorium. The sale will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s always a good idea to shop early because we always have the good fortune of selling out,” said publicity director Elli Panichas.
Old-fashioned struffoli, in particular, is a favorite among shoppers.
“This is one of the few places where the old-world struffoli can be found,” said Panichas, a long-time marketing mogul in Rhode Island and a parishioner at Holy Cross Church. “They sell out rather quickly and the best selection is always during Saturday’s sale.”
While the event’s feature confection is the Neapolitan Christmas struffoli, the Holy Cross holiday bake sale doesn’t stop there. Panichas says the women bake up, “some of the finest Italian cookies you’ve ever eaten.”
This year’s holiday bake sale will include authentic, handmade Italian cookies for which the Holy Cross Church Women’s Guild uses the finest possible ingredients.
Panichas said some of the cookies on sale will be prune slices, cherry slices, egg biscuits, molasses cookies, almond bars, Anise slices, Venetian cookies, butter balls and macaroons. This year’s holiday bake sale will also include other holiday cookies as well as a variety of cakes and candies.
Rachel Paliotta, who has been a member of Holiday Cross Church for 39 years but has only been active for the last 15 years with the Women’s Guild, is taking advance orders for cookie and struffoli trays.
“We’ll have one- and two-pound trays of traditional Italian cookies,” Paliotta said.
Customers benefit from the baking talents of the Women’s Guild, but Paliotta says it is an event that they look forward to every year.
“We all have so much fun making the cookies; it’s puts you in the true spirit of Christmas,” she said.
This year’s holiday bake sale will also offer small-package and cookies by the pound. Panichas, meanwhile, emphasized, “This is not just a cookie sale. We’ll have holiday chocolates and many more goodies that our ladies create right here in our kitchen.”
She said Christmas desserts are always a big hit at the bake sale and the Women’s Guild is offering holiday-type gifts at affordable prices. Panichas urged people to “pick and choose your favorite cookies that we’ll be selling by the pound.”
The struffoli is a Neapolitan dish made of deep fried balls of dough about the size of marbles. Struffoli are crunchy on the outside and light on the inside. They’re mixed with honey and there are many different ways to dress them, but the traditional way is honey with “diavulilli” (nonpareil sprinkles) cinnamon and bits of orange rind. Panichas said the process for making struffoli is long and involves many steps and hands.
“They’re delicious,” she said.