Last year we dug into the history of one of the most characteristic Italian Christmas traditional food: “il Panettone.”
Though, this luxurious decadent bread is not the only way Italians like to end up their festive meals. There is another contestant on the table: “Pandoro” (Golden bread)
It is pretty standard in every family that at the end of the meal, the fierce debate will start upon the choice of the cake. Provided you still have room in your tummy, you will have to pick which delicious loaf will be sealing off the heaviest meal of the year: a slice of Panettone or a slice of Pandoro?
What is the story behind Pandoro?
Like all traditional food, it is tough to trace its real origins. Some say it was an evolution from an Austrian Christmas cake. Others trace it even back to Roman times where Pliny the Elder described in a book written in the 1st century the preparation of a sweet bread made of butter and eggs for Xmas Eve. Some others believe it might be an evolution of a sweet bread made with eggs, sugar, and butter, dusted or even covered in Gold by Venetian bakers and offered at very luxurious banquets.
However, the most common story might be an evolution of a traditional Christmas cake made in Verona in the early 19th century called Nadalin. Nadalin in Venetian dialect is the equivalent of Natalino in Italian or Christmasy. This soon-to-be-famous cake was baked to celebrate the first Christmas under the Scaligeri family that ruled Verona from 1262 to 1387.
Originally it was only made with butter, flour, sugar, and yeast and shaped like an 8 points star. No eggs were used, but still, it was so spongy and soft that it immediately became a success among Verona’s people.
Hence, on the 14th of October 1894, the Industrial Property Certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce of the Kingdom of Italy granted for 3 years to Mr. Melegatti in Verona the trademark for the name, the recipe, and the shape of a Christmas cake called Pandoro. Compared to its ancestor, the Nadalin, the recipe added eggs to the dough, making it taller. Its mold was designed by the famous artist Angelo dall’Oca Bianca.
Until 1950 where Italy turned more industrial, the Pandoro was mainly eaten in Verona. However, the demand for the golden cake began to rise once millions of people left the countryside to seek jobs in the city, so first Melegatti and then other rivals companies such as Bauli or Paluani became the industrialization process. At the end of the ’60, Pandoro was available to everyone in most supermarkets all over the National territory.
Just as for his rival Panettone, the making of Pandoro requires a lot of work and dedication. It must rise for more than 10 hours, and the dough needs 6 or seven rounds. The golden loaf has no raisins or candied fruits inside, but the rich buttery texture will be so decadent to melt in your mouth at the first bite.
Traditionally Pandoro is left on the radiator while enjoying the Christmas meal. The butter will be softening the dough while the rich vanilla aroma will spread around the house. There is a bag of vanilla powdered sugar to sprinkle on the cake before slicing it in the box. You can dust it gently directly on the sliced goodie or pour it into the bag and shake it vigorously to ensure no surface is left unserved.
Even though Pandoro is appreciated for its simple recipe, there are now versions with custard cream, chocolate chips, chocolate cream, or other gourmet creams such as Lemoncello or Pistacchio.
The most common way to serve it is just by slicing it vertically and having some custard or mascarpone cream on the side. However, it is often sliced horizontally for a more scenic presentation, and its slices are piled up to compose a Christmas Tree. For an extra treat, before dusting it with sugar, pour some custard or chocolate cream on the top and let it dribble.
In the unlikely event of any leftover, Pandoro is often eaten even after the holidays for breakfast with a little bit of jam or dipped into caffe latte. Otherwise, the slices are often used to make versions of Tiramisù, Zuccotto with Chocolate, or even rolls up with cream or jam. So undoubtedly, it gets never wasted.
So, which team will you be on this Christmas? Pandoro or Panettone?
If you have ever been to a top-quality Italian Restaurant (like us), you surely have noticed that some of the most gourmet pizzas are with Buffalo Mozzarella.
But if you want to be sure, you need to ask about its origins. Italians like to certify the origin of their “flag products,” hence Mozzarella. So if this delicious world-famous cheese comes from the Region of Campania, it will be labeled as a DOC product (“Controlled designation of origin”). However, in 1996, the EU added an extra-label PDO(Protected Designation of Origin). The Policy Document states they can only produce it in the 3 regions and specifically in the provinces of:
Napoli, Caserta, Salerno and Benevento, in Campania
Latina, Frosinone and Rome, in Lazio
Venafro, in Molise
Foggia, in Puglia
If your Mozzarella di Bufala is made in other places in Italy or the rest of the world, it will still be good, of course, but not as divine as it should be.
A step back in time
So how did the Buffalos end up in Italy? And why make cheese made out of their milk?
First, we need to point out that we are talking about a particular race of bovine, originally from Asia, called Water Buffalo, as they prefer muddy soils. Their hooves are broad and splayed so they can move freely into a murky environment, and they might even dive on the beds of lakes and rivers looking for food.
There are several theories on how these particular animals arrived in Italy and, above all, in Campania.
Still, as usual, it is pretty much impossible to find out which version is the correct one. Some versions go way back to the Romans. However, according to the Consorzio Tutela Mozzarella di Bufala Camapana DOP, it was most likely to be around the 10th Century, after the invasion of the Moors and the Saracens. About a half-century later, the swamps in the actual Region of Campania were wholly recovered and became a perfect environment to breed the strong buffalos.
Until the XII Century, the animals were bred and used probably only by the monks of the monastery of San Lorenzo in Capua. We have written proof that the monks offered a piece of bread and a “mozza” to the Pilgrims. Any produce from Buffalo Milk was costly, and for a while, it was only destined to the rich market. Then in the 15th Century, people started breeding animals in circular constructions called “bufalare.” More buffalos meant better availability of milk, hence more types of cheese made: provola, caciocavallo, ricotta, and even butter. And it was in 1570 that, for the first time, a cookbook mentioned the word “Mozzarella.”
The term “mozzarella” comes from the Italian verb “mozzare,” an operation still practiced today in all the dairies. It consists of forging the piece of filata curd by hand, detaching the single mozzarella balls with the forefinger and thumb, getting the typical round shape of the Mozzarella.
If you have never seen it before, we suggest you watch the procedure in this video. Unfortunately, the video is only in Italian, but you can understand just by watching the “Mastro Casaro” making a braided mozzarella and then a regular one (skip to minute 8.00)
Nowadays, the Buffalo Mozzarella comes in a variety of shapes and sizes:
Classical round shape starting from only ten grams (bead, cherry, or bocconcini) to up to 3 kgs
Knots and braids
Plain or smoked
How to recognize a real buffalo Mozzarella from a regular Fior di Latte?
Let us give you a few tips!
More elastic due to higher fat content (almost a 1/3 more)
A more intense flavor with a higher hint of acidity
It releases more liquid when cut open
La zizzona di Battipaglia
A romantic tale behind a very famous Mozzarella: la Zizzona di Battipaglia We all know how Italians are famous for their romantic gestures and tales: think of Romeo and Juliet, for example! So we have a romantic tale even behind a very particular type of Mozzarella, called la Zizzona, which in Italian means big breast.
The legend tells that the Nymph Bapti-Palia milked the buffalos to produce the Mozza in the morning.
Only the Gods could enjoy this divine food, but one day she met a handsome young shepherd named Tusciano. He was on the other side of the river, and she fell in love immediately with him. Then, as proof of her love, she told him about the Mozza, and Tusciano ran to the village to share the story with all the people instead of keeping it a secret. The Gods got furious and punished the two lovers. They were separated and destined to wander without ever meeting again. However, the Nymph became the city of Battipaglia (protector of a unique worldwide product), and the river Tusciano runs around it, embracing his lover.
If you want to eat the real Mozzarella di Bufala, come and try some of our exclusive dishes such as “Prosciutto e Bufala”, or our Margherita DOP!
The Italian Flag, also called the “Tricolore,” features three equally sized vertical pales of green, white, and red.
The Italian Constitution states that the green is on the left side, followed by the white and the red, and regulates its use, display, and protection. Damaging or offending the Tricolore can be punished with a fine from 1,000 Euros up to 5,000. If this offense will be carried out during a ceremony, a festivity, and so on, the penalty is double. Anyone who publicly and intentionally destroys, throws away, damages, makes useless, or stains the national Flag will be punished with a 2-year sentence in jail.
So even if the Italian Flag is not usually displayed outside home and business, Italians care about it as much as the US does.
“A Flag is Born.”
What is the meaning behind the colors, you might wonder?
As always, there are a few versions of the story:
green for hope; white for faith and red for charity,
green for the hills, white for the mountains, and red for the bloody wars for independence,
green for freedom, white for faith and purity, and red for love.
However, if we look at facts, we know that the Flag was initially inspired by the French one, identical in form, but the green replaces the blue. The Tricolore made its first appearance in the late 1790s. In Northern Italy, the Republic of Cispadane adopted the Flag as a sister Republic of Revolutionary France during the French Revolution. Later on, it was also adapted by the Lombard Region.
At the time, Italy was formed by several independent Republics, which one by one started to adopt the Tricolore, usually adding a logo in the middle to get distinguished. On the 23rd March 1848, the Flag was used by Italian troops in battle against the Austrian army, making it an official symbol of the Italian confederation.
The following month, the Flag was adopted by the Kingdom of Sardinia. Finally, in 1861, it became the official Flag of the Kingdom of Italy.
When Italy was officially united as a monarchy under the Royal House of Savoy in 1861, a shield, cross, and Crown were added to the center of the Flag’s three stripes.
However, until 1925, when the model of the National Flag was defined by law, there were different shapes and standards all over the territory. The Italian Flag also spread among political exiles, becoming the symbol of the struggle for independence and the claim to have more liberal constitutions.
On 17th March 1946, Italy became a Republic. Accordingly, the symbol of the Savoy Crown was removed, but the green, white and red stripes remained!
Since 1996, on 7th January, Italy celebrates “la Festa del Tricolore” to commemorate the first time it was officially adopted as a Flag on the same day in 1797.
It is not a Public Holiday; however, there are celebrations in the town of Reggio Emilia, where the Flag was displayed for the first time as a symbol of the Cispadana Republic. Also, in Rome, at the Quirinale Palace, a change of the Guard takes place to honor in solemn form with the deployment. Furthermore, there is a parade of the Corazzieri Regiment in gala uniform and the Fanfare of the Carabinieri Cavalry Regiment.
This particular ritual takes places only three times a year, once on the Tricolore Day, and then on 17th March to celebrate the Anniversary of the Unification of Italy, and then on 2nd June to celebrate “la Festa della Repubblica” and finally on 4th November for “Giornata dell’Unità Nazionale e delle Forze Armate.”
If you want to taste the Italian Flag, come by and try our appetizers. Bandiera Italiana is a delicious Mozzarella di Bufala with oven-roasted Bell Peppers and basil leaves. Or a refreshing Caprese Salad: alternated mozzarella and tomato slices, topped with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.
Then, of course, let’s not forget that some of the legends around Pizza will also state that it was invented to honor the Italian Flag.
If you are around Italy early in the evening (around 6-7 pm), you will see most of the bars getting crowded little by little.
It could be a couple of people, or it could be a full table. However, they will all have a drink in their hands while snacking on some food. While here in the US, we celebrate happy hour, Italian will break their working day in a fancier way: with an Aperitivo.
It’s is all year round event; however, when the warmer season arrives, that’s when bars will start crawling. Tables and chairs are “blossoming” everywhere in the streets as most bars will prepare for the warmer season extending their space with outdoor patios (called dehors.)
Cracking the Aperitivo Code
The history of Aperitivo outlines the importance of a break from work in the Italian lifestyle. Furthermore, it serves to find a time of day in which it is possible to catch up or socialize with friends before going back to the family. Aperitivo originated in Turin in 1786 thanks to distiller Antonio Benetto Carpano and his Vermouth, a delicious muscat wine mixed with herbs and spices. Carpano Shop soon became very popular due to this new drink, and in no time, people were gathering there after work with friends to enjoy a glass of it. By 1880 “The Vermouth Hour” was a trend among all social classes. It became so fashionable that De Amicis wrote about it in its book “Torino 1880”. Liquors’ shops were crowded, and this social initiative soon spread out in many other regions in Italy. Competitors started creating new drinks such as Ramazzotti, Campari, Martini, Cinzano, Gancia, Cocchi, and bars to offer a few snacks (or “stuzzichini” ) to go along.
Nowadays you can enjoy Aperitivo all over Italy: from small country villages to the bigger cities.
Some bars offer such a rich variety of food that you will hardly feel the need to have dinner afterward. In some cities, the Apericena has replaced Aperitivo, which means you will have enough food to get you stuffed for dinner. Most of the bars will have good competition on how big their buffets are. Some others are even going all the way from starter to dessert, just like an authentic dinner.
A drink and infinite goes to the buffet will usually cost you around € 12, since the global Pandemic now food is served straight to the table.
Six most popular Aperitivos
Spritz: it was launched in 1919 and, up to today, is one of the favorite choices for Aperitivo. It is the perfect combination of Prosecco, Soda Water, and either Campari or Aperol topped up with a slice of Orange.
Hugo: originally from Alto Adige (North East Region in Italy), this drink is getting extremely famous all over the National Territory. a low-alcohol cocktail made of prosecco, elderberry syrup, Seltz water, and fresh mint leaves and it falls into the “Spritz category.”
Negroni: It’s a cocktail made of equal parts of Gin, Bitter Campari, and Red Martini shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. It is relatively strong, so you better eat those “stuzzichini” like there is no tomorrow, or you might not be able to stand up from your table.
Prosecco: this unique wine is so versatile that it can be drunk on its own or part of some cocktails.
Peach Bellini: A must if you are visiting Venice. This fancy drink usually drank in a flute is a delicate mix of prosecco and white peaches purée. It was invented in 1945 in Harry’s Bar to honor the painter Giovanni Bellini.
Americano: One of the first cocktails to be consumed during the Vermouth Hour. It was created in 1860 by Mr. Campari mixing Vermouth, Campary, and Soda water. Mr. Campari named the cocktail to honor Primo Carnera, the first non-American boxer to win the world heavyweight championship in the USA.
So if you are planning a trip to Italy this summer, make sure not to miss out on this fancy “ Italian ritual”! Don’t forget to ask what is included in the Aperitivo, especially if you have planned dinner afterward.
In case you want to recreate this fancy atmosphere in your house, then grab some of the liquors that we mentioned before, and have some snacks to go along with it: olives, platters of cheese and cured meat, some vegetables, and any other food you feel it will give you a Mediterranean vibe!
In Italy, coffee is more than just a beverage, more than a caffeine fix in the morning or during the day. Coffee is a proper ritual, starting from in the morning when you wake up and prepare your Moka, to that very quick pause in the bar to have a quick coffee “al banco.” And, to be precise, a bar is where you have a coffee, eat a croissant or a sandwich: the equivalent of our cafè in America. You can get alcoholic beverages too, but it is the coffee they thrive on.
Un caffè per favore!
When Italians talk about coffee, they talk about Espresso. However, if you order one at the bar, you will only need to ask for a coffee and specify how you want it.
Hardly ever you will hear a local going to a bar asking for an espresso.
According to the Italian Espresso National Institute, “Espresso is the drink obtained by forcing adequately pressurized hot water through coffee powder. Espresso coffee should not contain any additive or flavorings and should be free of any artificially added water.”
If you are thinking that sounds easy, think again! A proper Barista will ask you how you want it, and you will not have a Menu to consult: so get prepared!
Caffè or literally coffee, which means for Italian a regular espresso. It means a single shot served in a tiny cup, most of the time heated beforehand. If you thought this was easy, think again. Your Espresso can be either Caffè Corto (Extra short) or Caffè Lungo (a bit more watery than usual)
Macchiato or literally stained! It’s a shot of Espresso with a dash of milk. BUT it can either be with cold milk (macchiato freddo) or with a bit of frothy hot milk (macchiatocaldo). Do not get mistaken with a cappuccino as this type of Espresso still gets served in a tiny ceramic cup, and it can be drunk in a couple of sips.
Caffè americano: well, let’s be honest here. There are very few Italians who would drink an americano. If they see you drinking one, most likely, they will ask you how you can drink that “dirty water.” As the Italian nickname suggests, it’s a shot of Espresso with hot water. Americano: well, let’s be honest here. There are very few Italians who would drink an americano. If they see you drinking one, most likely, they will ask you how you can drink that “dirty water.” As the Italian nickname suggests, it’s a shot of Espresso with hot water.
Cappuccino: another worldwide famous Italian type of coffee. The perfect Cappuccino is a strict combination of coffee and milk: 25 ml of Espresso and 100 ml of steamed frothy hot milk, served in a bigger cup, full to its brim. The most talented barista will be pouring the milk to serve you a proper cup of Art. A dash of chocolate powder is totally optional, so you will need to ask if you want it. Usually, Cappuccino is drunk after 11 am due to the high content of milk, and NEVER during or after a meal: all Italians know it will be hard to digest. But once again, Cappuccino offers different variations. It can be chiaro (with less coffee than regular) or scuro (with more coffee than a regular one). It can be with only hot frothy milk or with just a little bit of it extra cold milk. And we are not over yet! You can ask for skimmed milk, or nowadays, with vegetable milk such as soy or almond.
Caffè Latte: Remarkably similar to a cappuccino but usually served in a glass, and the milk is never hot and creamy, but only lukewarm
Latte macchiato must be served rigorously in a tall glass; this drink is hot milk, not frothy, with a dash of Espresso.
Caffè corretto, or corrected coffee. How exactly can you correct coffee? Well, for instance, a shot of grappa or other typical liquors! A corretto is not the type of coffee you want to drink in the morning with your croissant while reading the paper. However, it’s something you want to try if you are going skiing in the wintertime as it will keep you warm and make you extra happy!
Shakerato: only served in the summer; this type of coffee is a delicious “afternoon pick me up,” mixed up with sugar and ice and served in a cocktail glass. Some cafè might have different sugary flavored syrups to offer you a different experience in every sip.
Marocchino: born in the Northern Region of Piedmont, as a natural evolution to a very famous drink called “Bicerin.” This gourmet coffee will sweep every chocolate lover off their feet. It is served in a small cup made of glass, where Espresso, froth milk, and chocolate are perfectly combined. Some bars will use chocolate powders on the top; some will be covering the bottom and rim of the glass with Nutella. Some others are now introducing Pistachio spread instead. In any case, the three layers must be clearly visible from the glass to enhance your senses.
Barley coffee: we all know this is not the real deal. However, as the healthy trend has been taking over during the years, a typical Italian does not want to give up the pleasure of sharing a coffee with a friend or family. This drink is now available in most of the bars on National territory; there are several options: small cup (Orzo in tazza piccola), big cups (orzo in tazza grande), with or without milk, vegetable milk, and so on.
Another addition to the coffee Panorama in the latest year is coffee with Ginseng. It’s Espresso prepared with ginseng extract and needs no other sweetener. Ginseng naturally increases energy and is said to make you alert. It also helps with digestion, making caffè al ginseng another perfectly acceptable after lunch or dinner coffee drink
Decaffeinated, or simply DEKA: from Espresso to Cappuccino, you can please your palate without feeding caffeine to your body. It’s the perfect solution for those who drink several espressos in a day. Or for those who simply do not want to give up this natural digestive aid after a sumptuous dinner.
Although Italians like simplicity in life, they sometimes like to complicate the most simple things, such as coffee. Check out this funny short video from a famous Italian Illustrator
By the way, we would like to share a little fact to make you understand the importance of coffee in Italy. A cup of coffee is usually really cheap, just above a dollar a cup. In The region of Campania, people may pay for two coffees: their own and for what they called a “suspended” one. Anyone who cannot afford coffee for the day might walk into the bar and enquire if any pending drinks are available for the day. A little act of kindness that can brighten up someone’s day!
And if you are planning a trip to Italy this summer, you can now order coffee like a local!