Babka and Braciole

Illustration by Katharina Davoudian

Babka and Braciole

Jenna Carellini

June 4, 2024


It’s a Wednesday afternoon when I got to Vita Siano’s house in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. She’s 86, my Italian American grandmother has lived in the same house since 1942 and has a love for Jewish food. Of all the facets of her life I wanted to learn more about, her love of Jewish food struck a particular chord. The young Italian American that I am has always felt connected to Jewish culture, maybe this was why.

It took all but seconds for her to begin to tell the part of her story that related to Jewish culture, specifically the culture that was happening in Bensonhurst. She moved to her two-family home on 19th Avenue and Cropsey Avenue at the age of 8 and it was soon after, at the age of 12, that she met her Jewish best friend, Gloria Kofsky. “We met playing on the street, I kept seeing her around the block, and over time, we just became friends,” she shared.

This friendship, which would last over 70 years, blossomed quickly, with a basis in food—the two became immersed and passionate about each other’s culture and traditions.

“Every Friday, I would sleep at Gloria’s house and we would have bagels, lox, whitefish, and the whole spread on Saturday morning, I loved it. Other Italians did not like the ‘real’ Jewish foods as I did. They liked brisket. I liked everything except kasha,” my grandma recalled.

She spoke of Gloria’s love of spaghetti and meatballs and how she adored Gloria’s Bubbie, who kept a Kosher household. Their friendship grew with them and their families, causing their own children to be culturally immersed as well. Gloria’s daughter Rhonda, noted, “I didn’t even know I was Jewish, all I ever ate was Italian food, your grandmother taught my mom how to cook and I was always jealous of the Easter dresses your mom wore.”

“This friendship, which would last over 70 years, blossomed quickly, with a basis in food—the two became immersed and passionate about each other’s culture and traditions.”

Weathering Gloria’s move to upstate New York and Florida, the two remained close friends until 2003 when Gloria passed away. But the influence this friendship had on my grandmother did not end with Gloria’s death, “It was such a shock. No one even told me she was sick. I was really heartbroken but my life would have been so different if I didn’t have a Jewish best friend, I would have been so different,” Vita said with a bittersweet tone.

While the story of this friendship and the cultural influence that the two families had on each other is quite personal, this connection between the Jews and Italians of Bensonhurst is seemingly universal.

According to the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, in the early 1900s, Bensonhurst Jewish immigrants, many of them Syrian or Egyptian Jews, joined the mix in the mostly Italian neighborhoods, and it was during this time that the connection between these groups formed. Margret Mosseri, an Egyptian Jew from Bensonhurst, who was quoted in an article regarding the Jewish Italian connection, noted that she grew up above an Italian bakery, and Aimee Cohen spoke in the same article stating that she felt this connection was built on the idea that at the time, Italians and Jews both shopped at the same grocery stores.

On a phone call with Arthur Schwartz, Italian and Jewish cuisine extraordinaire, restaurant critic, and former executive food editor of the New York Daily News, he shared some insight on the topic: “We had our own Italian restaurant and our own Chinese restaurant and our own Jewish deli, like every Brooklyn neighborhood, does.”

However, this connection, which again felt seemingly universal, came to a conclusive head when Vita brought up Hy Tulip, her favorite Jewish deli in Bensonhurst. An Italian American from Brooklyn that not only likes Jewish food but has a favorite Jewish deli, was something worth delving into.

She merely mentioned the deli was on 86th Street and that she went there “whenever she felt like having a hotdog.”

Of course, this topic seemed loaded and historical, which felt exciting, but it was at this moment that my quick internet search of “Hy Tulip Deli Bensonhurst,” received little to no historical information or evidence. There was no ground-breaking story on how a Jewish immigrant started the deli with two cents in his pocket or how this deli survives today with lines down 86th Street. What I was met with were countless recollections of Italian Americans from Bensonhurst and their feelings on the deli. None of the information factual, professional, or published, but instead from the fingers of “Joey from down the block” on Chowhound and Bensonhurst fan pages.

“While the story of this friendship and the cultural influence that the two families had on each other is quite personal, this connection between the Jews and Italians of Bensonhurst is seemingly universal.”

It was on these fan pages and food websites that these Brooklynites recalled a deli of their past: “Also fondly remembered was Hy Tulip’s Deli, to which I would make forays, usually over the busy street by way of the El Station, to get takeout orders of hot dogs and leaden but delicious knishes. This was back in the late 40s and in the 50s” and “I also lived on Bay 25 St near 86 St. much later. I was walking distance to Lenny’s pizza and Hy Tulip, what could be better?” noted two fans on the topic of Bensonhurst on

It was during this time that I read the pages of these comments and spoke to friends of my mother’s and grandmother’s and was told stories of hot dogs, corned beef sandwiches, and lunchtime meals between the local Italian Americans and Jews of 19th Avenue. I read of Ralph Scotto, an Italian delicatessen owner who had his start at Hy Tulip, ”My father broke his neck diving into a swimming pool,” he recalled. ”I took a bus to 86th Street, and there was a delicatessen called Hy Tulip. I walked up to the door. Marty Sachs, the owner, was throwing his dishwasher out. He gave me an apron, and I worked in the kitchen next to the guys making knishes.”

Next came a clipping from the 1970’s Daily News, noting the closing of Hy Tulip until 3 o’clock on Monday, June 29th. The picture and article noted that the deli was closing “in support of many good friends and customers on their Italian American Unity Day.”

The last and perhaps most iconic connection came from a page of Philip Carlo’s “The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer,” where Nino Gaggi, a capo in the New York Gambino crime family, is seen double-parked in front of Hy Tulip in Bensonhurst. This Bensonhurst deli was a Jewish deli for Italian Americans and it seemed like they knew that.

According to my mom and grandma, the talk was that this deli closed sometime in the past couple of decades. But to the Italian Americans of Bensonhurst, it was just yesterday that they went to this deli on 86th Street when they “felt like having a hotdog.”




Jenna Carellini is a student and creator in the food space. She is passionate about the intersection of food-based knowledge and personal writing.

Poznan old town square | Vinci

Poznan’s beautifully painted Old Town’s Square.  Photo courtesy of Katarzyna Gabryelewicz

Poznań and a Day in the Country

Marie Marlo-Barski

September 21, 2021


My husband Andrew and I did what sensible adults only talk of doing: we quit our jobs to salvage what was left of our souls and went on a four-month tour of Europe, or as I call it, a two-for-one mid-life crisis. We stayed mainly in Eastern Europe as it is more affordable and because we have relatives there. It was grounding to reconnect with places from our younger days, see how we changed in three decades independently of one another, and glimpse into the lives of people we hold dear but know only superficially as they live three consecutive plane rides away.

I’ve learned by now that when we say “we’ll get together soon” that day never comes unless we firm up the plans right then and there. When the invitation from Kasia and Jeremy comes to spend an upcoming weekend at their country house, we pull out the calendar and confirm. We repack our suitcases for the second time in less than a week and are on our way again the following morning. The cab arrives just on time and this one smells of aftershave. It is overpowering but a huge improvement over the more common fermented cabbie odour baked into vehicles by the summer heat.

The train station is crowded. People are gathered under the announcement board, the kind they used to have at airports before electronic ones came along, with the little black cards that flip very fast listing upcoming departures and corresponding platforms. Andrew says that paying extra for reserved seats is not an option here, like with the nicer and newer German trains. A ticket means you can get on but doesn’t guarantee an actual seat; often, it is standing room only.

As I process this information, he continues, “When the train comes, I will run and get on, then you’ll pass me the bags through the window.” He is only half joking.

Sure enough as the train pulls in, everyone runs towards it and crowds at the entrances like nails on an oversized magnet. Any notion of personal space disappears instantly. Andrew, an old pro from his youth in this once communist country, is already on when I realize that I too will have to elbow my way in. Someone asks me a question and I lose Andrew from sight. I manage to get on the train and turn right when I hear him call from the left. He secured us seats. I am relieved to reach him in the crush of people.

This train is divided into compartments, each seating eight in a space that should only seat six. Again, my North American proportions are off. There is only another couple seated by the window, facing each other. This isn’t so bad, I think to myself, when a hefty woman pops her head in and asks if there is a seat available. She sits down, taking the space of one and a half persons according to the seat numbers.

Just then, the train is overrun by a horde of green uniforms, the Polish equivalent of boy scouts. Each has a man-sized backpack, probably weighing as much as the kid carrying it, and as wide as the train’s passageway. A young woman, one of the monitors, quickly determines there are still three seats in our cabin and promptly stuffs three boys in. We are now filled to capacity. Andrew and the other man manage to squeeze one of the giant back packs on the overhead luggage rack, along with a couple of smaller ones. The other two are left in the passageway, a scene that repeats itself for each compartment.

I remark to Andrew that this is a major safety violation as the bags block the passage, making a quick exit in case of emergency impossible. He laughs at me again. “You’ve got the window,” he replies.


Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore
As the train starts to roll, I suddenly notice many hands waving outside the windows: moms and dads seeing their kids off, the smiles not completely hiding the worry in their eyes. The boys are about ten or so, with no hint of puberty or teenage drama yet to come. Here I have to compliment Polish parents, their children are polite and well behaved. The boy next to me is sure to offer me and everyone in the compartment whatever candy or snack he is having. Polite does not mean quiet, and they chat and laugh incessantly. I don’t mind. It is nice to see this unencumbered joy of life, something we forget about later on. We learn they are off to a lake some eight hours away for the next three weeks. They all go to school together and live in the apartment’s vicinity that is our home base in Poland. We talk a bit about travelling and Justin Bieber, whom they don’t like. Their English is quite good, largely thanks to the miracle of the internet, I imagine. I am struck by how well socialized they are, speaking clearly and intelligently, looking us in the eyes, none of the squirming, eye rolling, and nodding I’ve seen in North American kids.

“Andrew laughs at the absurdity of such a precise schedule; not noon, but 11:59 although no train is ever on time. In that aspect, nothing has changed in the thirty years since he has been living in Canada.”

The train stops at every station, and sometimes inexplicably between stations, to sit and wait on the tracks. We are to arrive at 11:59 AM. Andrew laughs at the absurdity of such a precise schedule; not noon, but 11:59 although no train is ever on time. In that aspect, nothing has changed in the thirty years since he has been living in Canada.

We reach Poznań, say bye to the boys and wish them a nice summer. The train is forty-five minutes late and Kasia, who is waiting for us, had to move her car twice to avoid a parking ticket. Kasia is Andrew’s niece once removed, and she calls us “aunt and uncle,” which is endearing. I’ve liked her very much since I first met her. She was eight years old and happy to sing me a little song she had learned in English. She was a sweet and caring girl and is now a lovely young woman.

Many country intersections feature a crucifix or a statue of the Virgin Mary | Vinci

Many country intersections feature a crucifix or a statue of the Virgin Mary. Photo courtesy of Katarzyna Gabryelewicz

We zoom through the city and onto the highway, which takes us into the Polish countryside. Four lanes of traffic merge into two and then become a narrow country road. Kasia doesn’t slow down; she is still doing ninety down what should be a maximum forty kilometers per hour road. There is no speed limit sign in sight. I strap on the seat belt and make a silent prayer that no child or animal make a sudden appearance from the countless intersections hidden by tall stalks of corn. I notice that I never pray as often in Canada as I do when I am in Eastern Europe.

Kasia and her husband Jeremy bought a run-down property half an hour out of town (an hour if I was driving), which they have been renovating since their wedding a couple of years back. The day is clear and warm and the country is beautiful. I like the openness of the undulating fields, poked by an occasional farmhouse and barn. Many rural intersections feature a crucifix or a statue of the Virgin and flowers. It seems many locals also feel the need for divine help on these roads.

Kasia and Jeremy’s house is a lovely storybook brick cottage with flower baskets on every window. We are enthusiastically greeted by Ginger, their three-year-old beagle. With my dog far away in Canada I have been missing doggy companionship, so it is nice to pet his little furry head. We find Jeremy in the rear of their expansive yard, with a couple of helpers, landscaping. Jeremy is handsome and a little sunburned from working outside all day. He looks a bit like a young Marlon Brando, brooding, until he smiles and his whole face lights up like a child’s.

The house is as nice inside, full of rustic charm. We sit down to a lunch of pasta with spinach and chicken in tomato sauce. Ginger keeps my feet warm. I don’t mind, although it is a hot day. After coffee, the three of us get back in the car. Kasia has reserved a tour of the nearby castle for us while Jeremy gets back to his yard work.

Kornik Castle, originally constructed in the 14th century and remodelled in 1855 | Vinci

Kornik Castle, originally constructed in the 14th century and remodeled in 1855. Photo courtesy of Katarzyna Gabryelewicz

Kornik is an actual castle, complete with a moat and ghost. The original structure dates to about 1430. It went through several owners and renovations, including Teofila of Dzialynski, or the White Lady as she became known, named after a portrait of her in a white dress that still hangs in the castle. She lived from 1714 to 1790 and gave the castle a baroque feel, including a French style garden. According to folklore, she never really left and is the resident ghost of the castle. And like all good stories, there is treasure to be found. During a renovation, a treasure hidden in the basement went missing. The ghost will rest in peace once the treasure is recovered.

Our guide is a lovely young woman who speaks English well. She takes us from room to room where we admire the inlaid parquet flooring, the very elaborate wood mouldings and doorways, and the antique furniture. She points to hidden passageways. The tour ends in the library that houses not only rare books, but collections of trophies and memorabilia brought back from exotic places by some of the castle’s globe-trotting residents. After the castle, we tour the expansive grounds and talk about life. We get back to the car and Kasia takes us to a nearby palace, the former family residence of count Raczynski in Rogalyn, now a museum. The expansive palace was recently renovated. The cream-coloured façade and white accents seem even brighter in the late afternoon sun. There is a live concert in the garden, and we get to hear the last three songs. One low building on the grounds, which I imagine must have been a stable long ago, is converted to a small restaurant. We sit outside and order iced tea. The place is crowded so we share a table with a couple of strangers, but no one minds, everyone one is relaxed and having a nice time.

Raczynski's Palace, completed in 1776 | Vinci

Raczynski’s Palace, completed in 1776. Photo courtesy of Katarzyna Gabryelewicz

We make our way back to the little brick house. Kasia gives us a tour of the property. There is a well dating from 1909, probably the same year as the house, and a brick barn that could itself become a lovely rustic house if renovated. I can’t help but think of all the shows I’ve seen where couples with passion and money undertake such projects. We go to the far end where Jeremy, now by himself, is still working hard pouring cement. They show us the work they did and explain their vision of what is to come, a terraced garden complete with fruit trees, herbs, flowers. I admire them for being so young, yet having such a clear vision of what they want out of life and working hard to get there.

For dinner we are joined by Tadziu and Kamil, Kasia’s father and brother. We help set the table outside on the brick patio. The evening is warm with a slight breeze and the conversations flow as does the wine. I think: This is what we need more of in Canada, evenings like this, with family and friends.

“The evening is warm with a slight breeze and the conversations flow as does the wine. I think: This is what we need more of in Canada, evenings like this, with family and friends.”

Kamil grills sausages made by a neighbour, while Ginger runs around investigating, disappearing into the tall grass to emerge again, face full of pollen. It is already dark when we disperse. Tadziu must catch the last train home to Ostrow; Kamil has a long drive to Warsaw, while we settle on the foldout sofa in the living room and promptly go to sleep.

Everything is peaceful until the first light of dawn, when the neighbourhood roosters start their opera. It is about 4:30 AM. Then the flies awaken and decide to examine me thoroughly. They tickle my bare arms and face. Waving them away doesn’t do much as they return time and time again, keeping me from getting back to sleep. I question my personal hygiene. I manage to dose off around six. When we get up at eight o’clock, Kasia and Jeremy are already up and dressed, making pancakes for breakfast. I take a long shower, scrubbing extra hard. It is already warm and we have pancakes and coffee outside. We are going to spend the day in Poznań, one of Poland’s oldest cities.

Poznan City Hall. The original structures dates from the 13th century, the present facade was completed in 1560. | Vinci

Poznań City Hall. The original structures date from the 13th century, the present façade was completed in 1560. Photos courtesy of Katarzyna Gabryelewicz

Like so many European cities, Poznań has a nicely restored historic plaza with cobblestone streets, tall, narrow buildings which have been lovingly restored, and churches. We find a crowd gathered outside City Hall. At noon every day, the City Hall tower offers a brief show: two mechanical Billy goats emerge slowly to face the people. They turn to each other and butt heads twelve times (I find myself counting along with the other spectators), then slowly return inside. This seems to entertain the adults more than the kids.

We turn left and head to what looks like a cathedral, calling from a narrow street at the end of the plaza. The Church of St. Stanislaus is an impressive structure in baroque ornamentation, one of the nicest I’ve seen. Next, we walk to the National Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Polish art and a few Renaissance pieces, including a gorgeous work by Botticelli of the Madonna and Christ child. After about three hours of “feeding our spirit” we are ready for actual food. Even Andrew has enough of looking at art; I thought that day would never come.

“The palace is beautiful [and]…I am tempted for a moment to be one of those people. I see myself as the chatelaine, running the household and hired help, and organizing huge parties. Then I think of the heating bill for such a place and snap back to reality.”

We settle on a nearby Greek restaurant. The décor of aqua blue and white is more Greek than the food itself, but we get a decent lunch and are on our way again. We visit the “Old Brewery” converted to an award-winning shopping center, a Gothic church begun in the 10th century entirely constructed from brick, and a park. We talk about many things, including Polish porcelain, and I fantasize about opening a shop in Canada.

On the way back, we drive to see an abandoned palace. There are many in the country, just waiting for a new owner to breathe life into them. The palace is beautiful, white and elegant, completely private, surrounded by a forest and a pond. I am tempted for a moment to be one of those people. I see myself as the chatelaine, running the household and hired help, and organizing huge parties. Then I think of the heating bill for such a place and snap back to reality.

Ginger is excited to see us all and runs back and forth, unable to make up his mind about whom to greet first. We have dinner outside and talk about Vegas. I’m not sure why we got on that topic, perhaps because it is the polar opposite of the beauty and history we experienced today.




Marie Marlo-Barski is originally from Yugoslavia. When Marie is not travelling, she is plotting her next adventure from her home base in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her husband and their three dogs. She holds a BA in History of Art from the University of Winnipeg. Besides travelling, her interests include writing, painting, photography, and animal rights. English is her third language.

Uliana Hlynchak in Windsor, Ontario

The author, Uliana Hlynchak, in Windsor.  Photo courtesy of Uliana Hlynchak

Road Trip to Windsor

Uliana Hlynchak

March 24, 2021


We travelled to the end of Canada’s 401 highway to Windsor. At least, that’s how I imagined it. The road was empty; hardly any cars. The landscapes bathing in the afternoon sun promised the velvet evening of an Indian summer. 

The Detroit River met us with a light chill breeze. Across the river, the urban landscape of Detroit glistened in the setting sun. Along the river’s Canadian side was a strip of hotels. We didn’t book any room ahead. During pandemics there’s no problem finding a room on arrival day. Or so we thought.

“Let’s check this one.”

We walked to the hotel entrance: Temporarily Closed. 

“Let’s go to this neighbouring one…”

After a short walk we met the same sign: Hotel temporarily closed for business. We walked further. Finally—an open hotel. But we didn’t go inside; all this room hunting made us hungry for dinner.

Behind the main street there were two patio restaurants. Italian was busy and French was empty. Italian had music and a lovely crowd. We took the last table on the patio.

The perfect dinner and slow service let us enjoy every moment of each other’s company. Our trip was long overdue. We love travelling and move easily without specific plans; before the pandemic, we explored cities in Europe or South America. Now, we were happy for the opportunity to travel locally.

Outside Café Amor & Art

Enjoying breakfast at Café Amor & Art. Photo courtesy of Uliana Hlynchak

The hotel registered us in a flash. My partner went to park the car while I enjoyed a bath.

“There’s no showercap in the room. Could you get one at the reception please?” I texted and smiled at the absurdity of my request. But I didn’t want to wet my covid haircut, since my hair had grown long and it took some time to manage. Tomorrow I had a livestream appearance.

“Disaster,” he texted. 

I laughed. He did bring me that showercap. I did save my hairdo.


“We love travelling and move easily without specific plans; before the pandemic, we explored cities in Europe or South America. Now, we were happy for the opportunity to travel locally.”


In the morning, the Detroit River lay in full beauty. The busy cityscape behind it was in its Sunday best. I imagined a time when this river was busied with boats and barges, with heavy smoke coming out from smokestacks.

“We need to rush to the unveiling ceremony, but first let’s find a nice breakfast place,”  he said.

And we did. On Ottawa Street. Café Amor & Art: where South American food, literature, and art are served. Their chef explained Latin American items on the menu: chicken or sweet corn tamales, pupusas, empanadas Colombianas, and many more. They proudly served our breakfast in South American style pottery with bright and beautiful ornamental decor. 

Café Amor & Art

Inside Café Amor & Art (top) and their patio breakfast (bottom). Photos courtesy of Uliana Hlynchak

We made it on time to our engagement as it was only a block away. The Ukrainian National Federation held a mural unveiling on the side of its building. The ceremony was heartfelt as most public events are online these days. Steve Romaniuk’s mural depicted two dancers whirling in Ukrainian dance costumes; I could almost hear the music. 

After the unveiling, I hoped to return back to Café Amor & Art for their Latin American soup dish, but our Ukrainian hosts didn’t let us go without welcoming us with a full buffet of Ukrainian dishes. What beautiful people of Windsor; we will be back.

Oh, yes. I brought the showercap with me. Not taking any chances to end up somewhere without it until I cut my hair. But again—where will I go?  For now, it’s a no to nonessential travel.




Uliana Hlynchak is a Toronto-based producer and journalist for KONTAKT TV, a weekly Ukrainian TV show. She works with young talents on developing the show Kontakt Next Gen. She is a member of the Board of Directors at the Canadian Ukrainian Art Foundation and volunteers for the Toronto Ukrainian Festival. Her most recent projects are interviews on the contemporary art scene Art Talk and the webinar series Contemporary Ukrainian Émigré and Diaspora Literature. Uliana writes articles, poetry, and short stories in Ukrainian and English.