– by Jakob Anderson, Food Writer –
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We all know the cannoli, everybody dips biscotti in their coffee, and bombolone’s have been to blame for many a shirt stain (or maybe thats just me being reckless). These are just a few examples of the Italian pastries that are recognized by the general population. I’ve had an interest in Italian cuisine for years, since I was raised in a “somewhat-but-not-really-Italian household.” Once I went through culinary school, my interest grew larger and I went on to have a short stint at Buca, an Italian restaurant in Toronto. This opened my eyes to the world of Italian pastries and all the varieties I had never seen, or even heard of. Despite what I learned there, there was still more to be seen when I entered the famous Alati-Caserta bakery in Montreal. Yes, their fridge was stocked with fresh canolis, biscotti, amaretti, pizzelle and other Italian classics, but there were many I had never come across. Now I’m sure there will be some of you out there that will have the, “HOW COULD YOU NOT KNOW ABOUT ____”, reaction, but keep in mind I grew up on chocolate cake and apple pie. This article is here to educate you, as the bakery educated me.
I encourage you not to go online and get recipes for these guys. Go to the Italian bakery in your city, you know, the one that makes you feel as if your living in the The Godfather. Ask the beautifully old lady at the counter how she makes them…but don’t expect an honest answer!
Brutti Ma Buoni
Translating to “good but ugly,” these hazelnut biscuits are similar to a pavlova, as they do not contain any flour (YES. GLUTEN FREE). They are created by mixing a meringue base with chopped and roasted nuts. Originating in the North, these cookies date back to 1870’s and are perfect for when you have leftover egg whites!
Ricciardoni look a lot like Cannolis, but that’s where the similarities end. Ricciardoni are made with a “butter dough,” the sweet Italian women behind the counter informs me. I asked if it it was like a cookie dough, and she replied, “yes, well….no.”
Wonderfully ambiguous, as always. This is how we left it on a busy Saturday morning, as she had many more boxes of pastries to fill. I did however learn that riccairdoni’s are filled with a ricotta cream and then topped with honey and almond. An absolutely stunning combination.
These shiny white globes caught my eye right off the bat as I viewed the historic fridge at Atali-Caserta. Cassatinas are a Sicilian classic that are becoming harder and harder to come
by in Italian bakeries. My guide told with a proud smirk, “we’re one of the few around who make this.” To acheive a cassatina, sponge cake is soaked in a fruit liqueur and then layered with a ricotta filling. They are then covered in almond paste and garnished with candied fruit. If these don’t tickle your Italian fancy…well then, you might be Greek.
Jakob Anderson is a trained cook and food enthusiast who approaches cooking as something that connects people in ways they don’t realize. “I love talking about food, eating food, thinking food, discussing food, debating food, think about debating food, fooding food? I love food.”
You can follow Jakob on Twitter @jakobanderson and Q-Avenue @QuincyAvenue