Aunt Ann was the classiest lady I knew. She and Uncle Tony ran a jewelry store in Northway Mall, Santini’s Jewelers, and every time I visited the shop, I’d take note of Aunt Ann and her two pretty sisters who either worked there or were always there for a visit. They never failed to look like fashionistas – dressed and accessorized to the nines with perfect makeup and hair. Aunt Ann was well-coiffed well into her eighties. She was barely five feet tall and had the tiniest hands, but the dazzling four carat diamond she wore never looked out of place on her little fingers. It was her calling card.
Auntie was not only the epitome of fashion but was an avid connoisseur of the good life. She and my Uncle Tony painted the town pretty often. Their favorite restaurant was Rico’s – an old school Italian classic here in the North Hills. They graced the restaurant at least twice a week, where my uncle would embarrass Aunt Ann by snapping at the waitresses to get their attention, demanding this or that. Rico and the staff loved him though. Aunt Ann and Uncle Tony traveled to Las Vegas several times a year, where they’d do a little gambling and Uncle Tony would inevitably buy a few silk shirts for his snazzy collection. In my eyes, the two were jet setters. I never expected Aunt Ann to be a good cook. I was way off.
Uncle Tony passed away shortly before I got married. In fact, he took my husband diamond shopping for an engagement ring just before he fell ill. My husband has fond memories of Uncle Tony showing him ginormous stones.
“This is a nice one, eh?” Uncle Tony would say, wiping the sweat from his bifocals and nodding, as Bobby shook in his shiny black shoes. Bobby finally swayed Uncle Tony away from the four carat stones that so resembled Aunt Ann’s big rock and toward the ones that were more his (and my) speed.
After Uncle Tony died, Aunt Ann was terribly lonely. She never really got over the loss of her one true love, her best friend. She yearned for him and spoke of him every single day of her life, even years later when dementia unfortunately set in. My mother took Aunt Ann under her wing, picking her up for Friday lunches – Rico’s of course, to the salon to get her perms, and to the mall – Auntie loved to shop. She spent more time with our family than she ever had, and I was able to get to know her even better, which was really a blessing. She was a beautiful woman inside and out and was one of my grandmother’s very best friends.
I cannot, for the life of me, remember exactly when I asked my great Aunt Ann for her pepperoni roll recipe. I have a pretty good memory for things like this, but this one’s gone. All I remember is calling her on the phone the first time I tried to make it. I was confused about exactly how to roll out the dough. She calmly explained what to do.
“Let it thaw until it’s easy to roll, you know,” she said. “And, Dana, make sure you put a lot of peppers in it. I mean, you don’t have to put them in, but the peppers are what make it really tasty.”
Her words were gospel. Aunt Ann’s pepperoni roll has been a huge hit since I started making it fifteen years ago and the God’s honest truth is the trick is in the hot peppers.
This post is for you Aunt Ann. Every time someone raves over the pepperoni roll, I swear I give you credit. I hope you’re dancing with Uncle Tony in Heaven!'
Pepperoni Roll - Bring this app to your holiday party. You'll win the prize!
1 loaf Rhodes frozen bread dough
Pepperoni- pizza slices or sandwich slices – doesn’t matter
Shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese – or a mix of both
Banana Pepper rings – hot or mild, depending on what you like
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Let the dough thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter for a couple of hours. Roll it out into a long rectangular shape. Lay pepperoni all over the dough. Don’t skimp on this step. The more pepperoni, the better. Overlap the pieces so that every space of dough is covered. Lay shredded cheese on top. Sprinkle peppers over the cheese. Roll it up from the short end and tuck in the sides, so you have a nice loaf shaped roll.
Bake on a greased sheet for 40 minutes.
Slice and serve.
Happy holiday partying!