If there’s a better time of year for desserts than Christmas, I’d like to know what it is. Well, maybe my birthday in January, when I often get one of my favorite desserts—angel food cake with chocolate frosting (mmmmm!)—or maybe fall, when we get apples right off the tree from nearby Virginia orchards and make pies, applesauce, tarts, and jelly. But no, Christmas wins. Especially Christmas cookies.
We don’t have to go far for yummy cookies in Rome. Just up the street from Campo de’ Fiori is a forno that we call the mortadella bakery because it has an immense mortadella—probably 18 inches thick—sitting just outside the door. I don’t know why. Tourists are so taken with this mortadella on steroids that they stop in their tracks, causing automobile and pedestrian traffic jams, and insist on having their picture taken with it!
The mortadella bakery makes wonderful tiny cookies called bocconotti, which means “small bite.” They’re two melt-in-your-mouth bites, and you select from lemon, pistachio, almond, and several other flavors, all dusted with powdered sugar. Apparently bocconotti vary from region to region, although the cookies we buy in Rome are just like those that we bought in Sicilia. We have to ration bocconotti in our apartment because neither of us can stop at just one bite! If you are invited to someone’s home in Italy, it’s polite to take them a small gift, such as a bottle of wine or a package of pastries. If you buy pastries as a gift, the salesperson wraps them in heavy paper and ties them with ribbons of every color. I often see people walking around Rome with these festive packages, and I always want to be invited to the party!
One of the most amazing desserts in Rome is chocolate calzone from Dar Poeta: a hot pizza crust slathered with a mixture of Nutella (an Italian spread of chocolate and hazel nuts) and ricotta, folded into a calzone, and covered with powdered sugar. Michael and I saw one of these in August but were always too full to taste them until November, when Kate McKenna was here. When the three of us bit into our first calzone, we all groaned with pleasure! The calzone is sensational (as is Dar Poeta’s pizza, you may remember). Kate and I can’t decide which dessert we like better—Bar Tre Scalini’s tartufo (see my previous blog post) or Dar Poeta’s chocolate calzone. I’ll keep testing them and let you know!
So for Christmas I offer you these dolci, tied up with bright ribbons and sprinkled generously with love, peace, and joy!