What would a trip to Italy be without a new, delicious food discovery? Happily for me (not so happy for my waist line), my recent trip to Puglia unearthed a few. Following on from the delights of Burrata and La Tana Del Lupo, I made it my mission to track down some Pasticciotto. Since its birthplace just happened to be in the very town I was staying, Galatina, my intrepid culinary detective work was put into use for all of about a hundred meters before I found it on Via Emanuele, a street bordering the old town’s Piazza San Pietro.
Traditionally, Pasticciotto was a small cake filled with egg custard(see pic above), but variations exist today such as lemon or chocolate cream, or the dark chocolate covered, jam and almond paste filled Fruttone. It is thought to have been invented in 1745 by Nicola Ascalone and today his family own Galatina’s Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone.
Despite there being plates of pastries on display in the window, when I visited late one afternoon I thought the pasticceria might be closed. The door was shut, the curtains were drawn and even when I walked in there were no pastries lining shelves or display cabinets bursting with treats to choose from. There were just two rotund men sitting at the lone table, munching through a plate of small cakes. As I waited, beginning to wonder if I’d just barged into someone’s house – albeit a house with a front room that looked suspiciously like a shop – trays full of cakey delights were eventually brought out from the rear of the shop and, as is the Italian way, fastidiously wrapped with decorative paper and a ribbon.
The interior of Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone is an art-deco lovers’ dream. There’s black and white checkered floor tiles, dark red walls covered with small, tiled mirrors and a white marble counter stretching the length of the shop, the only thing on it being an ancient cash register with a handle on the side that has to be spun to open the drawer below.
If you’ve ever ordered anything in a busy Italian shop, you’ll know it’s often not a case of ‘first come, first served’ but ‘loudest first, meekest last’. Years of ingrained polite queuing habits means I still can’t get the hang of this forthright ordering system. So when an Italian tour guide walked in and started shouting orders from the doorway while his group milled about outside, I was left waiting some more. When anther lady came in after him and I still hadn’t been served, I finally got my pushy on. In my best/worst Italian, I yelled “cinque pasticciotto per favore”, then pointed at some chocolate ones the tour guide was getting and said “cinque” again. With an “Ah” and a “Ci” this was relayed to the man out the back. Then the lady behind the counter proceeded to give me rapid instructions, pointing individually at the two types I had chosen, followed by more instructions.
I don’t know why I didn’t confess I couldn’t speak Italian at that point. Maybe it’s the same way I can never tell a hairdresser I hate their creative blow drying and end up leaving the salon looking like this…
or sometimes this…
So instead I nodded, shrugged my shoulders up and replied “Ah, ci, ci” as if I were saying “Yes yes of course, I may look like a silly tourist but, as you can tell from my ordering prowess, I am fluent in Italian pastry. No problem”.
The only word I understood was domani – tomorrow – but I couldn’t remember which one she was pointing at as she said it. So I took my pastries home and tried one of each. Surprisingly, I wasn’t blown away. They were nice, but truthfully I was a little let down after all the hype. The next morning, ‘tired’ from about a ten course dinner, three of those being the Prosecco, Vino and Limoncello courses, I opened the fridge to find the pasticciotto staring back at me. I bit into one. Oh. Oh. Domani!!! A night of sitting had intensified the flavours, the custard was sweeter, but not too sweet, the pastry was soft but with a little crunch and I was a very happy hungover bunny. I’ve since found out that I got it all wrong. 250 years of tradition says that it’s the custard pasticciotto that are supposed to be eaten the day they are made, preferably still warm from the oven, not the Fruttone.
Ah, what are you going to do – follow tradition or listen to a silly tourist? Why don’t you do as the Italians do – buy in bulk, have some fresh, eat some more domani and then you can decide for yourself. Perfecto!
The photos on this post (except Edward and Shelby of course) were my pathetic attempts at food styling. Hopefully I haven’t put you off.
Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone,Via Vittorio Emanuele 17 , Galatina, open: 9am – 1pm and 4pm -7pm