Nantucket resident Noemi Zhong Capizzo brings an authentic taste of her native China to the island.
When Noemi Zhong Capizzo left her hometown of Liuzhou, China, for a job as an au pair on an island more than seven thousand miles away, the then twenty-four-year-old college graduate had no idea what to expect. “I thought I was going to a big city!” she laughs today. Fast forward ten years and Zhong Capizzo is a vibrant member of the year-round community with two children with her husband, Nantucket native Scott Capizzo. Recognizing a general lack of Chinese culture on the island, Zhong Capizzo has recently taken it upon herself to recreate the comforts of her former home in the form of one particular food, dumplings.
Zhong Capizzo first learned to roll dumplings as a child in her mother’s kitchen. She knew these simple yet delicious recipes would not only connect her own children to their Chinese heritage, but also trick them into eating their vegetables. “If I put the veggies in the dumplings,” she says, “they’ re definitely going to eat it.” It wasn’t long before friends took notice of Zhong Capizzo’s delicious dumplings and asked if they could buy a batch of their own. “I thought I should do this as a business here because on Nantucket there really isn’t any Chinese food.”
With the generous help of Mark and Eithne Yelle, owners of Nantucket Catering Company, who offered space in their commercial kitchen free of charge, Zhong Capizzo completed all the legal permitting required to sell her raw and frozen dumplings. “Mark and Eithne just want to help local people,” Zhong Capizzo says. “They’re so nice.” This fall, Noemi’s Dumplings launched curbside pickup six days a week from the Youngs Way commercial kitchen.
Zhong Capizzo’s dumplings have since made their way onto the dinner tables of many Nantucket families who might not otherwise have been so lucky to try this delicious and authentic cuisine. “With a store-bought dumpling, most of what you taste is the bread,” Zhong Capizzo explains, “but these taste fresh and flavorful because they are handmade.” Zhong Capizzo offers several dumplings to choose from including her personal favorite, the pork and leek dumping, a traditional combination from her hometown, as well as pork, shrimp and cilantro. She also offers a selection of cold salads and dipping sauces, all of which can be conveniently picked up.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhong Capizzo’s mother would visit for entire summers and only speak to Zhong Capizzo’s children in Chinese, but since she has not been able to visit for several years, the children have forgotten the language. But with dumplings in both their hands as they stand in the family’s Nantucket kitchen, spoken word is not really needed, and instead the language of food continues their bond. “Making dumplings is a family activity and it’s passed down from one generation to another,” Zhong Capizzo says. “Every family has their own best or secret recipe, so it really gets me thinking of my family when I am making them.”
To order a batch of Noemi’s Dumplings, log on to noemidumplings.com.