Pauline Cozzi, nurturing Bridgeport mom, gifted home cook, has died at 93
‘Her world was her children and cooking and food,’ her son said. Check out her recipe for pecan balls.
When it came time to choose decorative designs for her personal checks, Pauline Cozzi picked two of her most-used kitchen appliances: a blender and a mixer.
A daughter of Sicilian immigrants, she learned Italian and Chinese cooking while growing up in Chinatown. She also could whip up German and Polish specialties.
Her red KitchenAid mixer got a workout. In addition to her biscotti, pecan balls, spice cookies and homemade pasta, she’d bake four loaves of Italian bread every week. After making her delicious pot roast, she’d shred it and enfold it in cornmeal for a delicious tamale pie.
Mrs. Cozzi had three refrigerators. The two in the house measured a combined 52.5 cubic feet. The one in the garage was for water and pop. In her basement, she kept about 20 pounds of pasta and cabinets full of tomato sauce, olive oil and spices.
“You went down there,” said her son Ricky, “it was like you were shopping.”
When she brewed coffee each morning, she sprinkled the grounds with cinnamon first. Inhaling the aroma, she’d sigh and say, “I’m in heaven.”
Every March 19, she and her sister Mary, a cook at St. Therese Chinese Catholic School in Chinatown, helped create the school’s St. Joseph’s Day Table.
“They made a ton of treats and also you had the Italian breads, lots of pasta, sausage,” her son said.
“Her world was her children and cooking and food,” he said. “If you came to our house and you didn’t eat, are you kidding me? She’d say, ‘You have to eat.’ Her cookies, her lasagna, her bread, her meatloaf, anything she made, mom was the best cook in the family.”
Mrs. Cozzi, who’d been in failing health, died in January at 93.
She went to Haines grade school and attended St. Mary’s Incarnata Church, where her father’s homemade wine was always featured at the St. Rocco procession, her son said.
Her parents Joseph and Josephine Farina were from a small town near Palermo. Her mother gave birth to 15 children, but only six survived childhood, her son said. Diseases like diptheria and scarlet fever took the other nine.
The Farinas made sure that she, her sister and four brothers got music lessons. Young Pauline learned to play the piano and accordion, and they’d put on little family concerts after dinner.
Her father worked at the Armour soap factory at 31st Street and Pitney Court. A whittler, he once carved a cathedral from a two-foot-square hunk of soap, Ricky Cozzi said.
In her 20s, Mrs. Cozzi learned to read Chinese numerals when she helped with the books at the Quong Yik grocery store in Chinatown. She also worked for Western Union.
PAULINE COZZI’S PECAN BALLS
This recipe, from 1950, makes five dozen pecan balls.
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
½ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¼ cups sifted flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup finely chopped pecans
Sifted confectioners’ sugar
Cream butter and ½ cup sugar until light. Beat in vanilla. Sift flour with salt. Add to creamed mixture. Mix well. Stir in pecans. Shape into one-inch balls. Place one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. While hot, roll in confectioners’ sugar. Cool, then sprinkle with more confectioners’ sugar.
After marrying in the 1940s, she moved to Bridgeport.
“If the wind fell just right, you’d have to close the windows from the Stockyards,” her son said.
The marriage and a second marriage both ended in divorce, but she never left Bridgeport.
She was a second mother to many of her children’s friends.
“If they needed a Band-Aid, she would patch them up,” her son said. “ Any time you had a problem, you came here. You wanted to eat, you came here. Ma took care of you.”
She crocheted afghans and scarves and hats, and gave them to relatives and friends.
Mrs. Cozzi loved watching “Family Feud” and “Gunsmoke,” and listening to the Big Band music of Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw.
And she was always stylish.
“My mom, she loved to dress,” her son said. “When it came time to go to the doctor, her shoes had to match her slacks. She had to have her jacket, her earrings, her makeup.”
Mrs. Cozzi’s son Alphonse died in 2012. In addition to her son Ricky, she is survived by her daughter Barbara Obrzut, sons Michael and Joe Cozzi, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Services have been held.