Italians are not quite as famous for their pastry as are the French. My favorite pastry of all time is, of course, the croissant. Nothing can compare to that buttery, flaky dough that the French have perfected and are so famous for.
But don’t get me wrong, Italians do have a few noteworthy confections. There is the cannoli, of course Zeppole, aka fried dough. And Sfogliatelle, which is typically enjoyed for breakfast.
Sfoglaitelle (sfo-l’yee-ah-tel-leh) means ‘many leaves/layers’ in Italian, which pretty much sums up what the outside looks like. The clam-shaped pastry, has layer upon layer of crispy dough, and is filled with sweetened ricotta cheese containing candied citron, almond paste or orange flavor. I really find them both beautiful and mezmerizing to look at.
Sfogliatelle originated in Naples, but can be found all over pasticerrie in Italy and of course here in the United States, especially in Italian-American areas.
It has been a lifetime since I have had some sfogliatelle, and last week, I was craving them.
My ah-ha moment was when I realized that I live within five mintues of two, count ’em two, Italian pastry shops. Duh.
So, I did what every self respecting Italiophile with a pastry craving would do.
Bought some at both shops and ate my way through them to find the best!
Yeah, such a hard life I have.
To my chagrin, I had to wait, as both shops only make sfogliatelle on the weekend. I waited patiently, and here are the results:
I have a soft spot for this place. When we first started taking Italian lessons, on Friday evenings after class, we would stop here for a cappuccino nightcap and swap stories and Italian words with the neighborhood men gathered around the outside tables. And in true Italian fashion, Caffe Aurora closes on a whim- they like to make their own hours.
I picked up my first batch of sfogliatelle, early in the afternoon on Friday. I bought both with and without powdered sugar. I have no preference on that front. These were thick, heavy and filled with lots of candied fruit. They were pretty to look at, but very heavy handed on the fruit, which tasted very bitter. They were good, but not as good as I remembered in Italy. The pastry itself was a bit stiff, not flaky. Each of these babies set me back $2.50
Early Saturday morning, Chris made the five minute trip over to La Deliziosa, while I made our coffee. When he returned, I knew it was going to be a good day. He said “Uh, remind me why we don’t go there every weekend?”
He said the place smelled like an Italian wonderland of baked goodness- almond, freshly baked cookies, slightly sweet. He came home with two sfogliatelle, right out of the oven. At first glance, these looked larger and had much more of a golden color.
It was love at first bite. They were crispier than the others and the filling was lighter and much tastier- not as much of that bitter fruit, which I prefer. And the best part- they were only $2.00 a piece- a whole fifty-cents cheaper!
So, La Deliziosa wins, hands down!
Looks like Caffe Aurora holds a special place in our hearts- but La Deliziosa holds the sweet spot in our tummies.
Have you ever tried Sfogliatelle? What did you think? What is your favorite Italian pastry?