Sicilian couple renowned for rice oranges

Maria Anna and Ignazio Cavallaro, of Rush Twp., prepare Arancia di Riso – a Sicilian delicacy – for parish events. The couple were the owners of Cavallaro’s Emporium, an Italian eatery they opened when they moved to Susquehanna County.



Those who frequent the bazaars and festivals hosted by the Holy Name of Mary Roman Catholic Church in Montrose know to look for a Sicilian delicacy among the halushki, pierogies, sausage and peppers, and other ethnic foods being prepared at the food booths.

Arancia di Riso, or rice balls, are orange deep-fried balls of rice – crisp on the outside and sweet and savory inside. They resemble an orange in size, shape and color, but not in taste. Hence the name, which means “orange” in Italian.

These festive treats are made by husband and wife team of Ignazio and Maria Anna Cavallaro of Rush Township. They prepare hundreds of the golden balls for parish events and are happy to share their culinary advice.

The Cavallaros are from Sicily, and immigrated to New York City in 1961. Ignazio served in the U.S. Marines.

When they moved to Susquehanna County, they established a famed Italian eatery called Cavallaro’s Emporium. Since they retired and closed the restaurant, they have been volunteering for parish events, making this popular treat.

First, the rice is prepared, with two cups of water per one cup of long-grain white rice, and seasoned with salt and white pepper, to not affect the color of the rice. The rice is refrigerated for an hour. Beaten egg is added to make it stick together.

Maria demonstrated how to form the rice balls in her hand. She first puts a little water in her palm. Half of the rice is shaped in one hand, and then a small well is made in the rice. A mixture of tomato sauce cooked with ground beef and green peas is put into the well, which is the center of the rice ball. Then more of the rice mixture is molded to form the top half of the ball.

“I work it in my hand until it is right,” Maria said.

Next, the ball is coated with plain breadcrumbs, and deep fried until it reaches its golden orange color.

The rice balls are served in a red tomato sauce.

Maria said that the term “marinara sauce” is really a misnomer. “It’s a misunderstanding,” she said. The sauce she uses is a basic tomato sauce with ground meat (chopped sirloin is best) added, and cooked until thick. “You can simmer it from crushed tomatoes, but it has to be thick,” she said. You could also use tomato paste.


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