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BAKERY

This map shows where to find the best desserts in Italy

The Gambero Rosso - the equivalent of the Michelin guide or the Bible for Italian foodies - has released its annual list of the very best pastry shops up and down the country.

This map shows where to find the best desserts in Italy
Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

The culinary experts say that the country's dessert sector is thriving. Italy's pastry chefs “are renowned as masters, for their creativity, technique and ingredients,” it notes.

A total of 18 bakeries received over 90 points from Gambero Rosso's cake connoisseurs – up from 15 last year, with four new entries in the top list and only one bakery losing the honour. The bakeries with scores over 90 earned the 'Tre Torte' title ('three cakes', the guide's version of three Michelin stars).

Top of the pack was Pasticceria Veneto in Brescia, with 95 points. The 'best pasticceria in Italy' is run by renowned pastry chef Iginio Massari, who has published several books on cake-making and is one of the judges on Italian MasterChef, as well as training the Italian team for the annual 'Pastry World Cup'. 

But if you can't make it to Brescia, it's likely that there's another top bakery near you – the 18 with 'tre torte' ranking are spread fairly evenly across the country. 

The map below shows exactly where they are – you could even organize a pastry-themed road trip to judge them for yourself. 

As well as the traditional ranking, Gambero Rosso handed out some special awards: the Corsino bakery in Syracuse won the 'Taste and Health' award for its totally gluten-free selection, and the Newcomer of the Year award went to the La Pâtisserie des Rêves, a traditional French bakery which recently opened up in Milan, just a few steps from the city's famous cathedral. 

Here's the list (in order of ranking) of all the bakeries awarded the prestigious 'Tre Torte' award.

1. Pasticceria Veneto, Brescia
2. Dalmasso, Avigliana
3. Maison Manilia, Montesano sulla Marcellana
4. Besuschio, Abbiategrasso
5. Gino Fabbri Pasticcere, Bologna
6. Acherer, Brunico
7. Biasetto, Padua
8. Nuovo Mondo, Prato
9. Pasquale Marigliano, Ottaviano
10. Bompiani, Rome
11. Caffè Sicilia, Noto, Syracuse
12. Cortinovis, Ranica
13. Cristalli di Zucchero, Rome
14. Dolce Reale, Montichiari
15. Ernst K Knam, Milan
16. Pasticceria Agricola Cilentana Pietro Macellaro, Piaggine, Sardinia
17. Rinaldini, Rimini
18. Sal De Riso Costa d'Amalfi, Minori (SA)

FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

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