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April 7, 2016

Nonna in the city: Annamaria at Argo

This week, CityMag’s continuing search for our city’s true culinary artistes took a sweeter turn, when we found Adelaide’s very own Queen of the Zeppola, Nonna Annamaria.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Josh Geelen

From the moment of meeting Nonna Annamaria Silbestrino, it clear she’s an exhibitionist.

CityMag reached out to her because we had heard fairly tall tales of her homemade zeppole, which are stocked in cafés around Norwood and the CBD, and we wanted to meet the mastermind behind them.


We met Annamaria at Argo on the Parade, which is one place where you can find her delicious zeppole on a regular basis.

What we were expecting was a sit-down conversation, during which she would describe the art of the zeppole with all the passion and fervour one would expect of someone with such a specialty product.

Instead, once we were introduced, Annamaria rushed back to her car to collect her portable gas burner and associated kitchenware and start the show.

We had no complaints.

Waiting for the oil to heat in the pan, Annamaria describes to us how she creates the perfect zeppole.

“People need enjoy when eat. That’s the best thing. I order nice product; I use good oil, good flour, everything,” she says.

“Every morning I make everything I need to make in the day. I get up three o’clock or four o’clock in the morning. So I make everything fresh.”

The pride Annamaria has in her work is evident, not only due to the hours she puts in to make sure no one is ever served a stale pastry, but it’s also written on her face as she graciously accepts compliments spilling from strangers as they pass by her makeshift kitchen.

Whether they’re commenting on the smell of fresh zeppole, or simply enquiring as to why there’s a cooking demonstration happening on the footpath, Annamaria thanks them for their interest.

Luckily, no one asked whether they were doughnuts.

“Sometime people say ‘that’s doughnut’. Sorry, that’s not the same as the doughnut. Doughnut is just the flour – that’s really milk, water, butter. It’s very original good thing to get,” she says.

“This zeppole, this cake, that’s a real tradition in Naples in Italy that’s called Zeppole di San Giuseppe – Saint Joseph Zeppole. In Italy, Saint Joseph’s Day, that’s Father’s Day, and that’s a special cake for Father’s Day. But you need to put the cream and the cherry on top, you know?”

When the spotlight is on Annamaria, she does make sure to put it to good use.

She participates in Italian Culture events in schools around Adelaide, and though she sells commercially now, the beginnings of her zeppole trade were in charity events.

“I do a lot of cook for charity. Lots of charity. Raise money for Mary Potter, for breast cancer,” she says.

“I donate for breast cancer couple years ago for Easter and for Mother’s Day, and the manager sell them all at the Foodland North Adelaide. In one hour – 50 minutes – 270 zeppole.”

It’s hard to tell where the greater amount of pride resides, in the popularity of her zeppole, or in the good deed they’ve contributed to.

With the interview over, Annamaria makes sure not to let CityMag leave empty handed, and we’re more than happy to oblige.

With a zeppole in each hand and a box to take back to the office, we wonder how many zeppole is safe to eat in one sitting, and whether that information would stop us anyway.

Annamaria sees us calculating and takes it as the compliment we mean it to be.

“Thank you very much. I very appreciate. I done a good job. I make people happy,” she laughs.

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