What’s a pizzella? Ask three generations of Masci women.
by Cassady Sharp . photos by Matt Rose
A gated golf community in Flat Rock may not be where you’d expect to find an Italian bakery. But the kitchen of Maggie Masci’s spotless home in Kenmure is exactly where the Masci women started a cookie-baking operation, Mama Christina’s, back in August, selling pizzelles, traditional holiday Italian cookies.
When she first started baking pizzelles, Maggie Masci and her daughter, Michelle Masci Jones, were placing orders for 10 pounds of chocolate at a time. Now, it’s 60 pounds, and they can crank out hundreds of cookies each day.
Masci, who’s 64, is originally from Pennsylvania. After living in south Florida for several years, she moved to Flat Rock with her husband three years ago, and Jones followed. Masci does all the baking, using her mother-in-law’s recipes, while Michelle, 42, runs the numbers—and sells pizzelles like your neighborhood girl scout. (Most sales so far are online, but about a quarter go to locals, who get a special shipping rate or pick cookies up at the Mascis’ house.)
Maggie Masci, who seems genuinely humble about the steady increase of phone calls and orders in four months, learned Italian cooking and baking from her mother-in-law, Christine Masci—hence the name Mama Christina’s. The pizzella, a thin, flat wafer, is a traditional and simple Italian waffle cookie made with flour, sugar and eggs. The root of the word is the Italian pizze, the plural of pizza, and a pizzella is in some ways like a small, sweet pizza. Italians serve them up at weddings and holidays like Christmas and Easter. (Not all Italians like the taste, though, with naysayers comparing them to communion wafers). Masci now sells 13 different varieties of the cookies, such as vanilla cookies drizzled with chocolate and topped with almonds or chocolate pizzelles filled with caramel.
Masci married her high school sweetheart, Nello, so she’s known Christine since she was a teenager. Although Masci has no Italian heritage, she feels she’s inherited it from Christine, who lives in an apartment attached to the Masci home. She reels off a long list of Italian dishes her mother-in-law taught her to make, from pasta fagioli to gnocchi. She also enjoys cooking her family’s Norwegian dishes, like beef stroganoff. “When I’m in the kitchen, I’m in my element,” Masci says.
Masci’s trim waistline suggests a lack of nibbling while baking. But if she can resist dipping into the batter, she can’t resist showing off her antique waffle iron, used to press cookies before drizzling them with dark or white chocolate. The cookies’ appearance suggest an artistic attention to detail, and this Christmas, she and her daughter are serving them up in festive tins. They’ve also had such demand that they’re looking for retail space in or around Flat Rock.
Call 866-593-7774 for more details, or check out www.mamachristinas.com.