Another Lost Product: Stella d’Oro egg biscuits

I’ve written before and copiously about Sara Lee Frozen All-Butter Brownies. But for a long time I’ve been craving these lost little treats from Stella d’Oro, flower-shaped biscuits that I used to get at my nonna’s house in New York when I was young.

Stella D'Oro Egg Biscuits

Not soft, not crunchy, but with a unique texture all thier own. And they appear to have vanished forever. I have written to Stella d’Oro and begged for a resurrection of this product, as I know many others have done, but thus far our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Someone suggested that Clementi’s original taralli are as close as you can get:

orig tar label


Taralli (foreground) and other yummy things from Clementi

And I’d try some in a heartbeat but you have to order them by the case. Other websites sell them by the pack, but at double the price plus shipping, so I’ll have to wait until I can get down to Hackensack to pick up a bag and see for myself, which thing I will not fail to do.

Speaking of taralli, let me introduce you to Graziella. The photo and text below are from The Italians, Face of a Nation by John Phillips, published in 1965 by McGraw-Hill.


“When Graziella was born in 1864, Lincoln was President of the United States of America, Napoleon III was Emperor of France, Bismarck was Chancellor of Prussia, Victoria was Queen of England, and Victor Emmanuel II was the first ruler of the new kingdom of Italy. Thirty-nine months before, an ancient civilization had finally become a young nation. though France maintained the sovereignty of the Papacy over Rome, while Austria retained the Italian-speaking provinces of Mantua, Venice and Trento. Graziella was two when Victor Emmanuel took advantage of the Austro-Prussian war to annex Mantua and Venice. On her seventh birthday, after Napoleon fell, her monarch got a special present: Rome.
Graziella never did learn to read. Her sovereign was more interested in colonial annexation than in the literacy rate of his people. At eighteen, the cheerful illiterate married a Neapolitan diver. That was the year Italy took her first dip into colonialism and came up with Assab, on the Red Sea. During Graziella’s first pregnancy, Italy signed her first international agreement and joined the Triple Alliance. This pact favored Austria, the hereditary enemy, and benefited Germany, but it did gratify the Italian national pride.
The first of Graziella’s nine children was born the same year that a blacksmith’s wife had a son whose name was Benito Mussolini. The birth of Graziella’s second child coincided with the conquest of Eritrea. Then came Teresa in 1892, the year the Italian socialists held their first congress. By the time Assunta was born, two years later, the socialist party had been dissolved. In 1895 Graziella had her fifth child in the midst of national rejoicing – Ethiopia had been conquered, Graziella mourned the death of her sixth child in the midst of national grief over being driven out of Ethiopia. Rosa’s birth preceded the tumultuous riots of 1898, which led to reprisals against the workers who had participated in them. Peppino was born the year Umberto l was assassinated in reprisal for the 1898 reprisals. Graziella’s last child celebrated her tenth birthday the year Italy conquered Libya and Cyrenaica.
A year later, in 1913, Graziella went to work to supplement her husband’s earnings. She had been selling fried peppers and eggplant for a year when the socialist firebrand Benito Mussolini tried to start a revolution at the outbreak of World War 1. Mussolini was against nationalism and war. The spring of 1915, Graziella moved her stand next to Zi Teresa, a restaurant on Naples’ waterfront, as Italy switched partners and declared war on her former allies of the Triple Alliance – in the name of “Holy Egoism.” In return, Italy received Trento, Alto Adige, Venezia Giulia, Trieste, and the Istrian Peninsula. Graziella was 58 when Mussolini became a nationalist, and 71 at the time he attacked Ethiopia. She was 75 the year the Duce blustered into World War II, and 80 when he could be seen dangling head down at a gas station in Milan.
Graziella became a widow the year the monarchy was abolished in 1946. Since then, too old to fry peppers and eggplant, she sells taralli. You can find her along Santa Lucia any day the weather is fair.”

What an incredible life; it reflects a century of Italian history. I lived in Naples in 1969, and I swear I saw Graziella there; I suspect, however, that I’m just combining my own memories with the images and words from this lovely book, because by that time Graziella would have been 105. At any rate, thinking of taralli always makes me think of her; you can see the massive ones she sold in the picture above.

If you want to try some of your own, I found a likely recipe at Lidia’s Italy.

Please, Stella d’Oro, bring back your egg biscuits.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Beware the re-scam

To: <>
Subject: Re: Hello!!!

Top of the day greetings to you. Are you a scam victim?
Have you lost money, property to Internet fruadsters in the past?
This message is only for those that has been scammed in one way or the other.
HM-Treasury UK wishes to compensate all scam victims  beneficiary with the sum of One Million British Pound Sterling, as part of the ongoing promotion.
Contact the chancellor of the HM-Treasury for claim, and further details about this compensation.

Jon Thompson

Emails like this are patently transparent to anyone who is even slightly aware of the Nigerian advance-fee fraud, but sadly there are a lot of people out there who are not. Hence this post, which might just turn up for someone who receives the same kind of rubbish and searches around to see if it’s legitimate.

It’s not. it’s a scam. These people want to steal your money.

The British treasury has much better things to do with its funds than give out millions of pounds to scam victims. These slime-covered drones are playing on the hopes and fears of anyone who has already been taken for a ride, thus proving themselves to be gullible pigeons. Sadly, there are some out there who would take this bait.


Delete emails like this immediately. Do not respond. Save your money and your sanity.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

December 17, 1940

From /r/historyporn:


“Children of Japan, Germany, and Italy meet in Tokyo to celebrate the signing of the Tripartite Alliance between the three nations, on December 17, 1940. Japanese education minister Kunihiko Hashida, center, holding crossed flags, and Mayor Tomejiro Okubo of Tokyo were among the sponsors.”

A relevant story from my own family history: My father was, in his day, a well-known character actor who began his career in radio. Italian was his first language, and his theatrical gift made him a superb dialectician. One day he was on a sound stage playing Mussolini in a radio play, when the actor playing Hitler became ill; Dad jumped in and assumed the rôle. By some odd quirk of fortune, the actor playing Hirohito also became unable to continue, and so my father ended up voicing all three parts. The director looked at him and exclaimed, “My God, you’re playing the whole Axis!”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Naples, 1900


A photo of Naples in 1900, showing one of the countless “vicoli” (alleys) where hundreds of thousands of people live, work, and play.



Aside from modern cars, scooters, and mopeds, very little has changed. It is in these alleys that one finds the “bassi” or ground-floor apartments which are ubiquitous and characteristic of Naples life.

See Naples and Die. If appreciating a rich and colorful culture is of interest, you could do worse than putting Napoli on your itinerary.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

European Road Trip – 1971

In December of 1971, I was living in Naples, Italy, where I had also spent a year previously, and a friend of mine who was at the time serving on the USS Cascade (AD-16) had a little Fiat 850 Spider. It was decided that we should take a road trip, and so we did. (How George managed so much shore leave was a mystery to me, but I wasn’t asking questions.) We drove up Italy through Cesena to Venice, past Udine to Vienna, across Austria to Lofer, down through the Romansch-speaking part of Switzerland, across the Lake Como area, and back. It was a wonderful trip.

I recently came across my slides from the journey, which I thought I had lost for years, and decided it was worth a post, if only so my friend, with whom I’m still in touch, could see them. The photography is hardly award-winning, but there are some pretty shots here and there.

Near Cesena, Italy

Near Cesena, Italy

Foggy Venice 2

Venice was cold and foggy.

Foggy Venice

Twin bridges

Venice - Gondola

Parked Gondola

Venice 2

Canal with bridges

I would later return to Venice many times as a consequence of my employment, in much better weather and more pleasant seasons. It is one of my favorite places on earth.

Clearing the Fog 2

As we proceeded north, we broke out of the fog as we approached the Alps in the vicinity of Udine. The views were glorious.

Clearing the Fog

Italian Alps

Dolomites, Italy

Clearing the Fog

December 1971 - When this Rooster Sings

Found on the wall in an osteria (guest house) on the road – the sign says, “We’ll give credit when this rooster crows.”

Church near Udine

A church near Udine

Near Udine, Italy

Near Udine

Udine, Italy


Austria - Wolfsburg

Wolsfberg, Austria

Wolfsberg, Austria

Wolfsberg, Austria

It turns out our route took us past Villach and through Klagenfurt and Graz, cities where I would spend much time in 1975 although I had no idea that would be the case. Wolfsberg lies on the road between Klagenfurt and Graz.

I would also spend about 6 months in Vienna in 1976, but even as early as 1971 I had this fixation on Beethoven, whose piano sonatas I was laboriously learning to play, and Vienna was like making a pilgrimage to Mecca. The weather was gray and wintry for the most part, but for 20-year-old me, it was still a gas being there.

Vienna - Beethoven Monument (2)

The Beethoven Monument, Vienna. You can tell by the trees that this was not taken in December; in fact, it was taken 5 years later when I returned to Vienna as a missionary. But it’s almost a clone of the picture that I took in 1971, albeit much clearer, so I allowed myself the substitution.

 Vienna - Beethoven Monument

Der Allermeister in all his scowly grandeur

Vienna - December 1971 - Beethovenhaus

Beethoven House

Vienna - Beethovenhaus

Beethovenhaus closeup – the plaque reads, “In this house lived Ludwig van Beethoven during the winter of 1819/20. The Missa Solemnis was written here.”

 Vienna - December 1971

Vienna street with overpass

Vienna - Donau at low ebb

Donaukanal at low ebb

Vienna - Maria Theresa Monument

Vienna – Monument to Maria Theresa

Vienna - Parliament Building

Vienna – Parliament


Vienna – Karlskirche

Vienna - Restaurant

We stopped for cocoa in this warm and cozy restaurant

Vienna - Skaters

Vienna – Skaters. I can hear Waldteufel’s “Skater’s Waltz” playing in the back of my mind…

Vienna - Stadtsmuseum

Vienna – National Museum

Vienna - Strauss Monument 2

Vienna – Monument to Richard Strauss

Vienna - Strauss Monument

Vienna – Strauss monument closeup

Vienna - Unknown 2

Vienna – National Musem

Vienna - Unknown



Vienna – People’s Theatre

After Vienna, we headed west, and spent the night in Lofer, Austria – one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen. It still rivals many others, and often appears on Austrian travel adverts.

Lofer - Hotel

The hotel where we spent the night – 100 Schillings, breakfast included. That came to about $4.00, the Austrian Schilling being about 24 to the dollar at the time. 5 years later it was down to 15.

Lofer - Winter Landscape

The Lofer church by day.

Lofer, Austria - December, 1971

Church in Lofer at sunset.

Lofer, Austria - Haus Anna

Lofer – Haus Anna

Lofer, Austria 2

Lofer, Austria

Lofer, Austria at Sunrise

Another view of the iconic Church

The following pictures were taken in Austria at various points, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to label them at the time. As a result, the precise locations are unknown.

Austria - Alps

Austria - Castle

Austria - Church Tower

Austria - Church

Austria - Morning Mist

Austria - Mountain Castle

Austria - Mountain Village

Austria - Road

Austria House

Austria Somewhere

Austria, December 1971

We continued west through Austria toward Switzerland, and passed through the Romansch-speaking areas in the southeast where we encountered some lovely snow sculptures:

Romansch Area - Horse Snow Sculpture

Horse rampant

Romansch Area - Polar Bear

Polar bear with cubs

These don’t rival the ones you find up in Sapporo, Japan, but they were impressive enough for me at the time.

Lake Como, Italy

Home and garden near Lake Como

It was a trip not to be forgotten. George, I hope you enjoyed these memories as much as I did.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

When the earth decides to let go.

On March 14, 2010, rain-sodden ground on a hillside to the west of Maierato in Calabria, Italy, had had enough of fighting with gravity, and slid into the valley below. The slide was captured by an amateur photographer amid the cries of people to Run! Run! and various oaths to “Madonna santissima!” The video is truly chilling – we don’t expect good old terra firma to let go like that under our feet – it’s like a river of earth.

Fortunately for the village, the hillside was undeveloped except for agriculture; still, there was a lot of damage to the neighboring village.

10_02 Italy 1

Maierato before the slide.



If you have Google Earth, just do a search for Maierato, Calabria, Italy – being able to see the elevation and move around the area gives you a good idea of the lay of the land.

For no reason, here’s another video of an epic landslide captured in France:

And one more:

This is the 1993 Pentai Ramis landslide in Malaysia. The landslide took place in an abandoned open cast tin mine close to the coast. This area of Malaysia is well known for its tin mining industry. The video footage shows the rapid collapse of the working face closest the sea, allowing complete flooding of the mine and forming a new cove measuring approximately 0.5 km2 (0.19 sq mi). Although the video quality is poor, the impact of watching this much earth move is powerful – it just keeps going, until the ocean floods in.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Rome: La Vespa



July 1955. “Rome, Italy. Coverage focuses primarily on people, places and historical monuments.” From photos by Philip Harrington for the Look magazine article “Can Catholics Separate Church and State?”

Found at Shorpy.

Joe Vespa


My father on a Vespa in Calabria around 1939. These little scooters were ubiquitous in Italy.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Berlusconi, more hated than Bush II… and that’s a tough challenge.

Berlusconi is at it again. Americans pay very little attention to the politics of other countries [1], but this guy is a train wreck of the first water. “Douchebag” is an insult to all the douchebags in the world. It makes me realize it’s time to dust off this old bit of genius, and I’m only sorry I can’t give the proper attribution to the author.

Ode to Berlusconi

L’onorevole Berlusconi si puo’ definire un por-
tento di abilita’, oltre che un uomo politi-
co di prim’ordine. Meriterebbe di essere de-
cantato con rime sacre come ad altri è gia’
capitato. Meriterebbe un monumento di ster-
minata mole marmorea che fungesse da e-
co indistruttibile nei secoli, in modo che il fe-
lice e caro nome di questo grande comunica-
tore potesse tramandarsi in eterno. Stron-
catore di malgoverni e uomo tutto d’n pez-
zo come nessun altro, il cavaliere ci incu-
te rispetto e ammirazione. Di Berlsconi si par-
la in lungo e in largo e ci condurrà fino alla mi-
tica era di benessere con la sua onesta faccia e
seria. Tutti noi cittadini dell’europa unita scor-
giamo in lui l’uomo del destino e perciò lo sor-
reggeremo con tutte le nostre forze nel mu-
tevole clamore delle folle, alzando un applau-
so a Lui e al suo Governo!
Prime Minister Berlusconi can be defined as a marvel of ability, and in addition, a first-class politician.  As has been done for others in the past, he deserves to be extolled with sacred rhymes. He is worthy of a marble monument of immense size which would serve as an indestructible echo through the centuries, so that the beloved name of this great communicator might be known throughout eternity. A man who crushes misgovernment, a man of impeccable character like no other, this knight arouses within us feelings of respect and admiration. Berlusconi is spoken of far and wide, and with his honest and serious face, he will lead us into that mythical era of prosperity.
All citizens of a united Europe see him as a man of destiny, and as a result we support him with all our energy amidst the ever-changing clamor of the crowds, raising plaudits to him and his government!

Read Every Other Line…

L’onorevole Berlusconi si puo’ definire un por-
co di prim’ordine. Meriterebbe di essere de-
capitato. Meriterebbe un monumento di ster-
co indistruttibile nei secoli, in modo che il fe-
tore potesse tramandarsi in eterno. Stron-
zo come nessun altro, il cavaliere ci incu-
la in lungo e in largo e ci condurrà fino alla mi-
seria. Tutti noi cittadini dell’europa unita scor-
reggeremo con tutte le nostre forze nel mu-
so a Lui e al suo Governo!
Prime Minister Berlusconi is a first-class pig. He deserves to be beheaded. He is worthy of a monument of dung, indestructible throughout the centuries, so his stench might be passed down through eternity. A turd like no other, he buggers us far and wide and will lead us into misery. With all our energy, we citizens of a united Europe will fart in the face of Berlusconi and his government.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] Why should I care? I care because half my family is from Italy, and a big percentage of my relatives still live there. They deserve better than this festering heap of camel ejecta.