The Story Behind the Gelso – Sabella Family Italian Cookie Recipes – Gelpia’z Classic


Gelso Family Cookie Recipe Poster 5-10-14

Recipe Recollections…

Mother’s Day Special

Gelso – Sabella Family Italian Cookie Recipes

Since leaving the restaurant business, my two most frequently asked questions are…

1) When are you opening another restaurant? The answer is, probably never I’ll save the explanation for a future blog post...

2) Can I have your mom’s cookie recipes from Gelpiaz? The answer was always NO. Today, to celebrate Mother’s Day Weekend, we are making an exception, and adding these THREE coveted recipes to the Beats & Eats Cookbook Series.

So, on this Mother’s Day Weekend, Ty Ray and I sat down in the ‘Virtual Lounge’ and took some bakery lessons from none other than, MY MOTHER!

Over the years, my mom has become “protector of the family cookie legacy.” Passed down for decades (The original recipes were created somewhere around the late-1800’s, in Sicily), these recipes were always protected under lock and key– I literally had no-clue where mom had hidden them. In the early 2000’s, as my restaurant grew in popularity (too quickly), the cookies that served as a sweet treat for diners at the end of every meal, became one of our top selling items during the holiday seasons.

The protective nature, passed down from family member to family member, did not pass my mom over. Mother would never, ever let any of our culinary team/baking staff touch the ricotta, pepper and chocolate chip cookie recipes. They were locked away in a binder that rarely left mom’s hands, that is when the binder actually made it out of my mom’s house.

Yes, that’s correct. For those of you reading this that had ordered the famous cookie baskets, most times, they were baked in my mom’s home, right where my brother and I had looted the bowl holding the raw batter when we were kids. Yes, you read that correctly too; even the raw batter was so good that my older brother and I would sneak a finger or two in the mix-master bowl while mom wasn’t looking.

During the Christmas and Easter Seasons, literally 100’s of cookie baskets, over-flowing with only Ricotta and Pepper Cookies would be baked in her home kitchen, packaged with sophisticated style – the packaging was as beautiful as the cookies were delectable.

Mom always told us growing up, “people eat with their eyes as much as they do with their taste buds.” 

In the years leading up to opening my own dining establishment, I honestly felt that mom was handing me a line of bull with that eating with eyes nonsense. As Gelpia’z grew, way too quickly, from a brand new restaurant, to a very popular NEPA (North East PA) dining destination, I realized fast that mom was right. There’s no-question that restaurant consumers want great food and service but, they also really want memorable experiences. What can be more memorable than amazing food, served up with sophistication and style?

As mom mentions in our interview below, “It’s seeing your family enjoy it, when you’re all together. It’s a wonderful feeling that you can’t buy anywhere,” mom continued, “The presentation is very important, even when you boys [my brother and I] were kids! When you see everyone [family] sitting down, whether you had a hard day, or you didn’t have a hard day, if you have a nice linen on the table, and a nice [linen] napkin, a candle as the center-piece, it makes such a difference,” Mom goes on to explain that Gelpia’z didn’t even sell the cookies, until we gave away a mini-portion with every check. With sophistication in mind, mom explains, “We didn’t just throw a cookie on a napkin, we plated it with a doilie, we educated the diners to what these cookies were, and that played a huge part in the cookie baskets being in high-demand. I’m glad I instilled pride and class in both my sons– I’m very blessed.”

Mother & Son
Mother & Son

Mom taught me well. Even today, as I’ve retired from the restaurant industry, I cook at home with that same sophistication and style mom instilled in us as children. It’s not being snotty or elitist to prefer a linen napkin over a paper towel. It’s not materialistic to serve up your home-cooking on a platter with a fresh herb garnish, picked from your home garden. It’s not pretentious to enjoy the cookie a little more when served with a steamy cup of cappuccino and a cinnamon stick. I’m proud to say that mom’s culinary sophistication had definitely rubbed off on me, nearly as much as her blunt nature, and quick, sharp whit.

As I finished off our conversation with Mom by thanking her for “relinquishing the recipes,” Mom responded in a selfless way, befitting of the best mother in the world. On Mother’s Day, a holiday that honors our mom’s, I should be giving my mom a gift. Instead, mother again shows her selfless nature by releasing these recipes to the world, something that is not an easy thing for a person left protecting of a century-old tradition. She ends ourdiscussion by saying, “These recipes have been in the family for generations. The cookies have a bit your grandparents in them, your mother in them, and now you’re taking it to other families [all over the world]… so it’s wonderful!”

Well ma’, on this Mother’s Day, and every day, I can honestly say, YOU are WONDERFUL! You are my mother, my hero, and my best friend. I love you!

Happy Mother’s Day!


The recipes are available for early-release on our FREE Mobile APPDownload Here | For Non-iPhone/iPad Users, After 6 pm, EST- Click Here

Interview with Paulette Sabella-Delevan | Nick Gelso’s Mom

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