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Eat Ravioli to Your Heart's Content

Belleville deli inspired by Valentine's Day.

Although Connie Francis loves Pepe Sisters Italian American Deli in Belleville for their beef brachiole, the singer and 1955 Belleville High School graduate would likely also enjoy the eatery's new Valentine's Day-inspired creation: heart-shaped ravioli.

“Somebody told me they had heart-shaped ravioli,” Annamaria Pepe said.

Added sister Fran: “We wanted to try it out.”

This prompted Annamaria—who runs Pepe Sisters with Fran and their mother, whom everyone affectionately calls Mama—to retreat into the kitchen where the deli's queen of pasta often freshly creates cavatelli, gnocchi, spaghetti and the noodles for the always-popular lasagna.

These new heart-shaped ravioli are created much like Pepe Sisters' other macaroni dishes, only some get dyed with red food coloring before being stuffed with a simple mixture of pot cheese (or ricotta), fresh parsley, eggs, grated cheese, salt and black pepper.

This first batch is something of a culinary collector's item: By her estimation, Annamaria only created approximately 10 to 12 dozen of these heart-shaped ravioli. They could be paired with their family's homemade sausage and followed by their tiramisu, Italian cheesecake, and/or cookies freshly baked on site. (Butterballs, knots, and pinole are among their specialties.)

Just as Pepe Sisters became popular through the years in Belleville, their newest ravioli is poised to become a seasonal specialty.

“Every year, you learn more,” Fran Pepe said.

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