Poppy seed, nut roll an Easter tradition in Greater Pittston

Last updated: April 19. 2014 1:08PM - 2558 Views
By Geri Gibbons Sunday Dispatch Correspondent

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Poppy seed or nut roll? In a mini survey, nut roll wins, hands down.

State Rep. Mike Carroll — nut roll

Carroll’s Chief of Staff Ron Ralson — nut roll

St. John the Evangelist pastor Msgr. John Bendik — nut roll

Former Pittston Mayor Mike Lombardo — nut roll

Sunday Dispatch reporter Joe Healey — poppy seed

Wyoming Mayor Bob Boyer — nut roll

Wyoming Area School Board Member John Bolin — nut roll

State Rep. Phyllis Mundy — both

Wyoming Area cross country coach Michael Stefanik — nut roll

Sunday Dispatch Officer Manger Judy Minsavage — poppy seed

Nanticoke Code Enforcement officer Jack Minsavage — poppy seed

Pittston’s Dress for Success Director Linda Armstrong — nut roll

United Way Director Bill Jones — nut roll

Aid to Rep. Phyllis Mundy Eileen Cipriani — nut roll

Business ower Nick Marianacci — nut roll

Wyoming Valley Preservation Council member Tony Brooks — nut roll “smothered in butter”

Wyoming Area School Board member Deanna Farrell — nut roll

Poppy seed roll or nut roll?

Picking just one is never easy.

In Greater Pittston, the Easter celebration includes baked goods, whether from area bakeries or grandma’s kitchen, and poppy seed rolls and nut rolls are near the top of the list. But which do most people prefer?

“Both,” said State Rep. Phyllis Mundy, when asked to choose. “Sometimes, you don’t have to pick a favorite.”

Local bakers confirm Easter week is one of the busiest times of the year. Most customers have favorites, they say, items that back childhood memories.

Cwikla’s Bakery, in Avoca, has served residents of Luzerne and Lackawanna for generations. The bakery overflows with patrons during Easter week not only seeking homemade nut and poppy seed rolls, but also there to purchase a variety of other ethnic pastries for the holiday.

Owner Jan Cwikla said the the preparation of poppy seed and nut roll has deep roots.

“People had fasted for Lent and were ready to begin celebrating,” Cwikla said. “Looking in their pantries, they found flour, nuts, and spices and crafted delicious recipes from simple ingredients.”

The bakery prides itself on its decades-old recipes. And baking in a 1909 coal-fired brick oven produces a unique product.

Cwikla has added apricot and raspberry cheese danish to his offerings for a more modern variety of Easter goods. He also offers “babka,” a labor intensive holiday treat that hearkens back to grandmothers’ kitchens when holiday baking was an all-day event.

Royal Bakery Shop in Exeter presents both nut and poppy seed rolls.

Manager Dawn Kosik said the bakery started taking orders early in the month. Many who come in simply for the poppy seed or nut roll, are enticed by other baked goods with colorful icings, filled with raisins or dates, and flavored with vanilla and anise.

Ethnic specialties such as Italian pizzelles and ricotta cookies also attract customers, and children often press their noses to the bakery cases, perhaps hoping a special treat may appear in their Easter basket.

Paska bread, with a sweeter flavor than ordinary bread and decorated with an ornamental cross, is purchased by customers to be blessed later in the week at their church.

Many patrons of the shop comment on the aroma emanating from the cookies.

Parente’s Bakery, in Pittston, is equally proud of its Easter offerings. Easter pie, Easter breads, Easter baskets and a spirit of Italian tradition fill the little shop on North Main Street which has served Pittston area residents for more than 30 years.

Owners Angelo and Lena Parente offer products reflecting their Italian heritage.

Employee Peter Parente said most customers come back “year after year.”

In Hughestown, St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, holds an annual poppy seed and nut roll sale, with pick up on Good Friday.

Pamela Hanczyc, a member of the church’s women’s service group, said the sale provides an opportunity for fellowship as well as a source of funds.

“We enjoy customers who come back year after year, as well as new faces,” she said.

Two hundred poppy seed rolls and nut rolls were sold at this year’s fundraiser, mostly nut.

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