1330 Ritner Street *
Philadelphia PA 19148
February 14, 2002
Joe "Bag-a-donuts" Sbaraglia

Yo! Here we go again. One of my favorite aromas is the smell of garlic and onions simmering in
olive oil in the preparation of ‘gravy’ on Sunday mornings. Someone asked me if I could explain
the difference between ‘gravy’ and ‘sauce.’ My response to this question was foolproof – I thought.
My explanation was that while most people call it sauce, most of South (or wannabe South)
Philadelphians call it ‘gravy.’

It is the red stuff, made with tomatoes, used on pasta and is not the brown substance you put on
meat loaf mashed potatoes or turkey. Why? I am not sure and have yet to find a logical explanation
to this mystery. I have been told that the original ‘gravy’ recipe originated in Sicily and was
probably due to the abundance of tomatoes on that beautiful island. Here is another mystery
connected with gravy. Why did most of the older Italian ladies go to church very early on Sundays?
The answer is obvious, they had to get home as soon as possible to make the gravy. It takes at least
two hours to make good gravy until it’s done. It was always made fresh on Sunday and saved. Mom
always made enough to be re-served with fresh pasta on the following Tuesday and Thursday. By
the way, I do not like the concept of putting sugar in gravy as they do in some movies about Italy.
To me that is what makes gravy taste like sauce.

Now as to my explanation of the difference – spaghetti sauce is sold in glass jars or metal cans in the
‘Ack-a-me.’ Spaghetti gravy is always homemade. Right? I thought so but I was wrong. My stock
answer to the question was recently destroyed. Two very dear friends of mine, Nancy and ‘Doc’
Gearhart, sent me a jar of
‘SOUTH PHILLY GRAVY.’ I was astounded! It destroyed the myth of such
thing as store bought gravy. On the label of the jar of
SOUTH PHILLY GRAVY I read this story: “In
a room full
of people, you can pick out the South Philadelphian by the genuine native friendliness and
curiousity he or she will exhibit toward
everyone and anyone. It is always best though to visit a home in South Philadelphia with an empty
stomach, because you will surely be led to the table, despite any and all protests, wined and dined
until it is impossible to rise from you chair without the use of both arms. South Philadelphians are
the only people who make ‘gravy’ (tomato sauce), faithfully every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday
with their favorite pasta. Mangia (Enjoy)!”

By the way, any type of macaroni on which gravy is used we call pasta no matter what the name is
on the box. So spaghetti, linguini, ditalini, ziti, shells, angel hair, is called pasta and can be served
with gravy. The list of ingredients are: tomatoes, onions, olive oil, wine, hot green peppers, garlic,
basil, raisins (?), spices, salt (NO ADDED SALT), and love. The last ingredient is what I think puts
real gravy into a special category setting it apart from sauce. I skeptically used the
on my favorite pasta and guess what – it was indeed just like Mom made. You really can
buy pasta ‘gravy’ in a supermarket. If you want to get more information about
, drop me a line. I also have a genuine recipe for Sicilian spaghetti gravy that can be yours for
the asking. Please enclose a SSAE #10 envelope with your request.

I have been writing about my memories of having grown up in South Philly and I would also love to
share some of your memories from your neighborhoods. I know you have some nice recollections
from Oxford Circle, Strawberry Mansion, Mount Airy, Fishtown, and the rest that you would like to
share with us. Is there a character, a distinctive store or some toy or game you played when you
were young? Send your description of it to me and I’ll include it in my column, with appropriate
credit to you of course. You can contact me at the Philadelphia Public Record or Email me -- or visit my web page --
By the way, the five books in
The Waffleman series are available for you to share our memories
with your friends and loved ones.
The Waffleman     Joe"Bag-a-donuts" Sbaraglia     Philly's~~The Public Record~~