This may be the most amazing blog I have written this trip. Perhaps the most amazing I have ever written.
I have read travel is educational. What I learned yesterday, I never knew. It was extremely revealing!
We start with bread.
The last two mornings, I have purchased at the local bakery shop a hot loaf of bread. Spread butter on it. Delicious.
The bread was familiar. Very. It was De Vito’s.
De Vito’s was a bakery in Utica. On Jay Street where I grew up. Across from Brandagee School. I did first and second grade there.
The bread was initially baked in a garage in the back. Then a for real bakery was built on the site.
The elder Mr. De Vito made a unique bread. I have never tasted any like it. A long thick bread. Cirspy hard crust. Flavorful inside. Sides of loaf soft, not crusty.
After Mr. De Vito passed away, his son continued to make the bread. Then he aged and the business was closed.
A sad daY.
Several years later, Mr. Zenzillo started making the same bread. He had worked for the De Vito’s for a number of years.
I have been away from Utica for some time now. I do not know if Mr. Zenzillo is still baking the bread.
Nowhere anywhere have I ever tasted the De Vito bread again till the last two days. I tasted it here in Greece on a small island called Amorgos.
My breakfast bread baked here on Amorgos.
I was confused. How? It was Italian bread and a Greek was making it.
Then I thought of my meals at Demetrius’. Dishes of my youth. Food my mother and grandmother used to prepare.
I again thought how? I was on a Greek island with Greeks cooking.
Search and ye shall find. I asked around. Talked with some of the locals. What they represented to me is one of the most startling pieces of information I have ever learned.
The southern Italian cooking I am so fond of has a Greek component. Perhaps a significant influence.
This is the story.
Greece was a commercial nation in the thousand year period before the birth of Christ. The Greeks always sought new ports from which to do business.
Between 700 B.C. and 800 B.C., Greeks immigrated to Southern Italy to establish commercial places of business. It was a colonization of southern Italy by Greeks.
Calabria, Puglia, and Salento were the primary areas where the Greeks settled. They were sort of like an expatriate community. The Greeks and Italians got along. There were no ethnic battles.
Other areas settled in subsequent years by this Greek invasion included a part of Sicily and the foot of the boot. The immigration was significant. These two areas became known as the Magna Graecie. Latin for Greater Greece.
The Greeks blended into southern Italian society over the years. The Greeks became Italianized, especially during the Middle Ages.
There was another influx of Greeks in the late 1400s. To Venice.
The final significant immigration was following World War II. A time when many displaced Europeans were moving to the United States, England, and Australia. Some Greeks opted not to enter those countries. Instead they settled in southern Italy.
This immigration process has not ceased. It continues to this day. Though it is much slower at this time.
What am I saying?
Southern Italian cooking has been decidedly influenced by Greek cooking. Otherwise, how could I purchase cooked meals and bread on this Greek island made by people who have never left the island? They and their families have been born and died here for centuries.
This theory, which I consider reality, can be taken a step further.
How many present day southern Italians and Italian Americans have Greek blood in them? It has to be. All those years with no intermingling of the two nationalities? No way.
Believe what you like. I think I am part Greek. As were my father and grandfather and many of our ancestors before them.
There is another way of viewing my conclusion. Perhaps I have been in Greece too long.
Enjoy your day!