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The path to a passion for pizzelle

Thursday, December 04, 2003

By Johnna A. Pro, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It started as a simple request.

Cookie baker Mary Jo Vindivich of Peters wanted to replace a Berarducci pizzelle iron that she had used for more than 20 years. So Kitchen Mailbox asked readers to help find the company, a repairman or a replacement iron.

We expected a call or two, maybe an e-mail. Instead we were overwhelmed. Readers wanted to talk about buying pizzelle irons, baking pizzelle and, of course, eating pizzelle.

Although Berarducci Manufacturing of McKeesport no longer exists, if your Berarducci is broken, the problem might lie in the copper coil. Several callers said repairing it was a matter of replacing the coil.

If you're looking for a new iron, several brands are available. By far, the readers who responded prefer the Palmer Electric Pizzelle Iron, but there are other makes, including VillaWear.

Although some irons cost as little as $15 to $20, don't waste your money. Expect to spend between $40 and $60 for a good solid iron. And look for an iron with deep grooves, because some brands simply emboss the cookies. Not the look you want.

Many bakers like the Teflon-coated iron, but we found that for best results, stick with a heavy aluminum iron. With each iron we tested, even the Teflon ones, we greased the surface with shortening several times while making the pizzelle.

As for Vindivich, she got a call from David Wenzel of Brentwood a day or two after the note in Mailbox.

It seems Wenzel's late father, Cyril "Buck" Wenzel, was looking for something to do after he retired from his job as a milkman. Buck Wenzel's wife, Mary, often baked, as did the couple's three daughters, so he decided to try his hand. Although of German descent, he learned to produce delicious Italian pizzelle.

For nearly 10 years, family and friends received tins of the cookies for Christmas.

After his father's death, David Wenzel took his father's pizzelle iron but didn't have his dad's knack for the cookies. He tried to sell the iron at a yard sale but nobody even looked at it. He didn't have the heart to just toss it in the garbage.

After reading Kitchen Mailbox, he found it was the same iron Vindivich wanted. He gave her a call, and, a few days later, he and his wife, Judy, delivered the iron. They refused to take any money.

"It was my dad's," he said. "I didn't want to just throw it away. I guess I was just waiting for someone like Mary Jo to come along."

Johnna Pro can be reached at or 412-263-1574.

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