Father’s Day arrives with memories that warm the soul. Arriving in Madison from Sicily in 1921, my father, Michele Roberto Tripolino, settled in the old Greenbush neighborhood with his parents, Salvatore and Caterina. He attended St. Joseph’s School, and by the time he enrolled at Central High, his last name was spelled differently to be accepted.
Although Mike Tripalin was small in stature, he became an outstanding athlete and was described by local sports writer “Roundy” Coughlin as being one of the three best halfbacks in America, comparing him to “Red” Grange with predictions that Knute Rockne would make him a star. After spending a year on the UW football team and being told he was too small for the conference, he received a scholarship to play for Jefferson College in Louisiana and traveled there by riding in a railroad boxcar to become one of the Four Horsemen of the South .
When Daddy’s goal to become a teacher and coach was interrupted by the Great Depression, he returned home, was hired by Oscar Mayer and spent 42 years advancing into Beef Sales and enjoying the camaraderie of working with the Mayer family and local and out-of- town butchers before retiring. He loved people, was blessed with an uplifting attitude, avoided talking about others and appreciated life’s many gifts with family being most important. He was an exceptional father, backyard gardener, active in local civic and sports events, fishing up north at his cottage, belonging to St. Bernard’s Church, enjoyed being an active lifetime member of the East Side Businessmen’s Association, was the shouter of “hamburgers ” during the club’s annual festivals and, in 1960, became their first Italian president.
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My Hungarian-born mother knew nothing about Italian food. Her first spaghetti dinner for Daddy was ketchup on macaroni which prompted him to introduce her to an English-speaking Sicilian couple who taught her how to make a sauce that became a winner at the Italian Workmen’s Club annual Sauce Tasting Competition that remains our all-time favourite.
Mike’s Favorite Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs
1 or 2 garlic cloves, sliced
Very small amount of olive oil and butter
29-ounce can whole Italian tomatoes, undrained
16-ounce can whole Italian tomatoes, undrained
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste, rinsed with small amount of water
1 tablespoon or less of salt
Fresh basil or ¼-½ teaspoon dried basil
Pinch of dried oregano, optional
1-2 slices white bread, crusts removed
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
1-2 fresh Italian parsley teaspoons, minced
Pinch of dried oregano or basil, or combined
Sauteed onion and garlic in small amount of olive oil and butter. Remove from kettle and save or discard. Soak white crustless bread in cold water for a few seconds before squeezing dry and pinching tiny pieces into bowl with meat. Add remaining meatball ingredients except for flour. Mix ingredients with hands, make 1½-inch meatballs and roll each ball in flour, bouncing in your hand to leave only a slight film of flour. Brown on both sides in same kettle with oil and butter that browned onions and garlic.
When brown, add sauce ingredients to the same kettle, beginning with undrained tomatoes, pressing with a wooden spoon through a large strainer placed over kettle, also scraping pulp from underneath the strainer. When tomato pulp inside the strainer is dry, discard. Add tomato paste and seasoning to the sauce, stir to blend, simmer covered, no more than 2 hours while stirring occasionally with the wooden spoon.
DePaola Family’s Italian Cabbage Salad
While continuing to search for a creamy Italian coleslaw recipe, here are a few salad recipes from longtime readers and friends Penny and Ross DePaola and Sherie and Steve Sasso reminding me of how Daddy made supper salads every night by wiping the inside of the salad bowl with a slice of raw garlic before adding the rest of the ingredients.
½ medium head of green or red cabbage, cored and sliced very thin
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients well. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Sasso’s Italian Coleslaw
This is a favorite coleslaw recipe from Sherie and Steve Sasso who claim it gets even better the next day.
1 whole cabbage, shredded
¹⁄³ cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
In a saucepan, bring olive oil, cider vinegar, sugar, garlic, basil, salt and pepper to boil. Boil for 30 seconds and remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly. For warm dressing over cabbage and toss to coat. Allow to stand until salad is cool. When cooled, cover and place in refrigerator to chill. When ready to serve, stir to mix cabbage.
While searching through old favorites preserved in my scrapbooks, I discovered a handwritten recipe shared a long time ago by former Greenbush neighborhood resident Conchera Capadona Pullara who taught me how to make this on Dec. 1 and take to Daddy to celebrate his 85th birthday.
“Thaw frozen dough and let it rise. Make sure it is oiled. Rise again. Oil a pizza pan. Press in with oiled fingers to push to edges. You do not have to have a ridge on this pizza. Sprinkle with raw chopped onions. Press anchovies into dough. Press sausages into dough if using. Open 16 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes. Take about ¾ of the tomatoes, squeeze juices over dough, then tear tomatoes to cover here and there. Sprinkle with oregano and grated Parmesan-Romano cheese. Press fingers in dough. Then more oregano and cheese. Let this rise about 15 or 20 minutes. Then bake in a 350 F oven for 15 minutes. Turn and bake another 5 or 10 minutes. Watch!”
Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, PO Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.