“Biggia-dutz” !


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What do you recall about growing up Italian?
Share one of your childhood memories with us.


Our Grandmas often relied on memory when cooking dishes whose recipes had been handed down for generations. When they couldn’t find exactly what they needed in their adopted country, they made do by substituting one ingredient for another. Recipes evolved and sometimes so did the names of those dishes. Already in a foreign language thick with dialect, some of us could never be sure of the exact names or the spellings of those culinary treats. In my family, my Grandmother made one such snack whose origin is still a mystery.

They arrived at our house in a brown paper bag soaked with oil, but inside that rather unappealing package were delectable hard morsels of deep fried dough seasoned simply with salt, pepper and fennel seeds.
Labor intensive and time consuming to make a batch big enough for her whole family, they were a treat my Grandma, with my aunt’s help, would make around Christmas time.
Grandpa especially loved them.
His mother had taught my Grandmother how to make them.
Deliciously addictive, you could never eat just one.
OilyBag

They were called biggia-dutz (pronounced bij-ja-doots). It was a funny name for a tasty snack and we kids loved saying it almost as much as we loved eating them. My Grandma Rose, who had a sassy sense of humor, pronounced it bitcha-dutz–emphasis on bitch and when she did, our eyes would bug out of our heads, our mouths dropped open and we would crack up laughing at the bad word she said.

Bitchadutz Over the years we all stayed curious about the origin of biggia-dutz.
We asked our Italian-Americans friends if they had ever heard of them but none had.
Someone told me they might be taralli, so I went and bought some.
It turns out they are similar in taste but biggia-dutz were shaped differently, were more oily and, of course, more tasty.
Taralli are boiled and then baked; biggia-dutz are deep fried.

One day, a couple of years ago, my sister came across an old Italian cookbook in the library and noticed a recipe for “Pezzi Duri” which translates to “hard pieces”. It was not a recipe we recognized as biggia-dutz, but the words ‘hard pieces’ were a perfect description. We wondered, could biggia-dutz be a Lucanian version of “pezzi duri”? When a friend in my Grandfather’s hometown of Matera told me the pronunciation of pezzi duri in their dialect was ‘porcedduzzi’, I knew that had to be it. I could see how easily porcedduzzi could morph into biggia-dutz. But as it turns out, in Basilicata pezzi duri are what most of us know as Neapolitan struffoli. In Sicily, pezzi duri is a gelato.

ingredients Cutting

I have scoured the internet for pezzi duri recipes and the closest I have come to biggia-dutz is a recipe for Italian pepper cookies. In my latest attempt, I both deep-fried and baked them and the baked ones were closer in taste and texture to the ones I enjoyed as a kid.

I’ll never know if biggia-dutz were once originally taralli or if it was a recipe my Great-Grandmother Antonia came up with. I’ll never know why our pezzi duri are so different from Matera’s traditional pezzi duri, but whatever their origin, it’s still fun to say bitcha-dutz.

-Diane H.

Comments

5 Comments to ““Biggia-dutz” !”
  1. Diane says:

    My nana would put powered sugar on my mom’s pizza frites, but when we came along, she & my mom would put tomato sauce & grated cheese on ours. Yummy! Thanks for the memories. :)

  2. Torre says:

    Mom used to use leftover pizza dough, rolled out and cut into rectangles, fried in oil and they puff up like pillows. Then when drained and cooled we would slit one end and spoon applesauce in…and sometimes roll them in sugar.
    She called them Pizza Frites. That doesn’t sound italian in word, but they sure were good.

  3. Leigh Higginbottom says:

    I also have been looking for a recipe for Italian S cookies….My grandmom had the recipe in her head–unfortunately, I was just too young to think of asking for the recipe. Her cookies were not overly sweet–and were softer than what you buy in the stores….anyone willing to share with me —–? thanks, Leigh

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