For a Neapolitan, thoughts of Easter conjure up the extended family enjoying a lovingly prepared and eagerly devoured feast. Not least among the delicacies is the pastiera, an essential part of Easter, a dessert that no Neapolitan table would be without.
A certain man I know well came of age in Capri, a mythic island in the Bay of Naples. Despite emigrating from Italy 73 years ago and living in the U.S. ever since, Capri has always been an integral part of him. During this past Easter Week Sal was especially overcome by nostalgia. In his fantasy he savored the pie redolent of orange blossoms and cherished memories, and he mentioned his longing to the people closest to him. Covid has whetted separation from family and friends and unbridgeable distances to a constant, bitter sting.
I called a pastry shop on Arthur Avenue, an Italian section of the Bronx, where shops and restaurants offer every sort of Italian food: mozzarella and parmigiano, salami and prosciutto, broccoli rabe and radicchio, cannoli and, wait for it– pastiera! The bakery’s website vaunted their shipments to every part of the country.
Imagine my dismay to learn they shipped cookies, but not pastiera, because of its fragility.
On Wednesday a former colleague of Sal’s told him to expect a package the following day. He wondered what it could be, and a part of him wished it would be a pastiera, even knowing that couldn’t be.
Imagine Sal’s delight when he found a package on the doorstep next morning– and it contained not one pastiera, but two! His former partner, sharing a craving for the same dessert, had sent one for Easter and one for the freezer.
Later on Thursday, Sal received notification of a shipment from Italy that would arrive on Friday. He was stumped, not having the slightest idea who the sender was, or what could possibly be in the package.
Finally, the parcel arrived. It was a pastiera, shipped from Naples by his nephew, who jumped at the chance to alleviate the longing of the uncle he loves so much.