"The thing. You know, that whatchamacallit, with the holes. That thing," he croaked, pronouncing it "Dat ting." By this time, my long-lost septuagenarian great-uncle-twice-removed and I were both worn out from drawing word pictures in the air and flapping our arms in an epic attempt to decode his family''s prized recipe for svickova.

After

doing the funky chicken for an hour and just making it to the part where the meat is in the marinade, we agreed that a shot of slivovitz would make for a dandy d‚tente. Refreshed, we pushed on.

"OK," Vendel announced. "Dat ting got da holes. Jhu know, makkaroni schttop, water go ahead."

Nasdravia! You drain the meat in a colander, taking care to reserve the marinade with which you''ll duly whip up a sauce that will set lips smacking from here to Prague. I look now at the tattered recipe, tremulously scrawled on a page out of a Big Chief tablet with a No. 2 pencil and smile back at that priceless memory of a rainy afternoon 20 years ago. At that time it seemed very important to us both that this recipe should be passed on. Vendel has since gone on to the big bread dumpling in the sky but svickova remains, claiming its place of honor on family feast days and done the old fashioned way with no short cuts, just as he explained.

When it comes to cannoli shells, Gaetano DiGiralamo echoes the sentiment. "I''m the best cannoli maker from California to New York," he states. "My father was a baker, and he taught me. A lot of people tell me, ''You shouldn''t put this, you should put this''. I tell them, ''You do what you wanna do, I do it my way!'' What I do? I do the right way, the old-fashioned way, and anytime you do the right thing, the old-fashioned way, you make good stuff."

Gaetano is the owner of Guy''s Cafe in Marina where, along with traditional Sicilian-style food, he may be found rolling up 3,000 or so cannoli shells, if it happens to be the Santa Rosalia Festival and some boats need to be blessed.

But it''s not just at the annual benediction of the fishing fleet where you''ll find some of Guy''s cannolis. Dominic Mercurio raves about Guy''s cannoli shells that he uses at Caf‚ Fina (along with his own grandmother''s recipe for the filling, which he also raves about.) They can be found on dessert menus all the way from Carmel to San Francisco, their light and crispy reputation going before them.

Making them is an intrepid process which Gaetano is happy to explain. The shells are a seemingly simple mixture of flour, butter, sugar, vanilla and red wine. But the method comes with plenty of provisos. "You have to let the batter sit for a while before you use it. Then you roll them like a salami, put them on an egg form, an oval thing, and roll them on a bamboo cane, each one, and deep fry," Gaetano explains.

"Then for the filling, the ricotta I do special. You mix with granulated sugar, not powdered sugar-that''s not the right way. Then you get one of those screens, they got the very small holes, like a sieve. I got mine in New York. You push the ricotta through, it comes out the other side."

I knew just what he was talking about, of course. Sometimes they go by "makkaroni schtopp." cw

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