Honestly, sometimes I think Corrado Savarino makes this stuff up just so he can show off his mad pastry-making skills. But just as there actually turns out to be a pastry called sfogliatelle, named for the way the pages of a book fan out (I was skeptical), so too are sfingi for real. They're Italian doughnuts stuffed with sweet ricotta, and Savarino is making them this season in advance of the Feast of Saint Joseph on March 19.
Jack Silverman, the Scene's Savarino's Cucina correspondent, recently brought a sample of Corrado's sfingi (rhymes with stingy) to me at my desk.
"I couldn't possibly eat the whole thing," I said, biting into the swirl of deep-fried dough topped and filled with sweet cannoli cream.
"That's OK, because I'll take what's left over," Jack said.
Then everything went a little fuzzy. I vaguely remember Jack yammering on about Al Bunetta, Joe Pagetta and Mike Figlio while I bit off hunk after hunk of pastry, whose golden skin and cakey interior recalled a hybrid of cream puff and cruller.
"Bla, bla, Figlio, bla, bla, Bunetta, bla, bla Savarino's Sandwich Gang..." I don't know what Jack was saying. I was just trying to keep the thick sugary globs of sfingi cream from dropping onto my shoes. Before I knew it, the pastry, once the size of a Quarter Pounder, was no more than a single sticky bite, smushed between my thumb and forefinger. I popped it into my mouth, licked my fingers and dragged a sleeve across my face to wipe the last clouds of ricotta from the corners of my smile.
"Thanks, Jack. You were right. Even better than a cannoli."
"Wait a minute--you ate the whole thing? I thought you were going to save me some," he said.
"Yeah, sorry about that. It was just so delicious I couldn't stop myself."
As Jack turned to leave my office, he shrugged, let out a disgusted "humph," and mumbled under his breath, "Well, that was awfully sfingi of you."