Local Taste

On the Amalfi Coast, five pastry shops interpret the sweet tradition of Easter.

Local ingredients, lemon scents, and chocolate flavors paint the tables of the Holy feast.

By Annamaria Parlato, cover photo by Emanuele Anastasio

Easter is one of the most significant religious holidays, in which we commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most of the Easter traditions can be traced back to ancient propitiatory and rituals connected with spring. To accentuate all this, the previous period of Lent contributes in which, especially in past centuries, abstinence acquired an evident meaning of purification.

The banquet of Easter cakes

The Easter menu is as rich and demanding as the Christmas one and does not refer to abstinence. Traditions must be respected and handed down. Housewives take several days to bake sweets in large quantities, often given as a good luck symbol. The banquet of traditional confectionery specialties includes the pastiera and the casatiello or the sweet version. It consists of a sponge cake base covered with white icing, decorated with colored sprinkles, candies, chocolate coins, and a sugar lamb on top. There is no shortage of eggs in artistic chocolate, the reinterpretations of the classic almond dove with local ingredients, and the wheat pastiera that sees rice as its antagonist.

The sweet casatielli and the chocolate eggs of the Pasticceria Pansa

Generally for people come Campania region, the Easter casatiello is salty, stuffed with every kind of delicacy, including cured meats, cheeses, and hard-boiled eggs put into pieces both in the filling and whole on the top as a decoration. There is also a sweet version whose authorship is not entirely clear. Some say he was born in Torre del Greco, those on the Sorrento Peninsula, and those on the Amalfi Coast. However, the casatiello of the Neapolitan area is made differently. The Amalfi Coast’s shape is crushed. It has no mother yeast, and the icing has the Sfusato Amalfitanothe’s aroma. It is also very decorated and can serve as a centerpiece or be fun for children who can remove their favorite sweets from the surface, choosing from chocolates, candies, meringues, sugared almonds, or the classic sugar sheep. «As Pansa here in Amalfi is a school of tradition on the Amalfi Coast, we are particularly attached to this dessert because it is closely connected to the territory and is a reference point in our Eater production. The origins should not be dispersed but promoted ». Nicola Pansa, the owner with his family of the historic Pasticceria Pansa, has also revealed some news on chocolate eggs. “We are the only artisan chocolate shop in Costa d’Amalfi. Our excellent chocolate is available all year round. It was a challenge, an act of passion, since the climate in this part of Italy has milder temperatures than in other places, and we can have some problems with the conservation of ingredients. The chocolate eggs have all our signature ingredients like pralines made with cocoa from Belize, Guyana, Madagascar. They are decorated and personalized. For children, on the other hand, we have created “Squisito” with milk chocolate filled with our cream with hazelnut from Giffoni IGP.”

Pastiera by Pasticceria Gambardella, courtesy of Pasticceria Gambardella

The traditional pastiera of Pasticceria Gambardella

Gambardella in Minori has been a reality of excellence on the Amalfi coast for three generations. Founded in 1963 by Francesco Gambardella and a renowned pastry shop, it is also an artisanal liqueur factory suitable for preparing jams, the first to have received the license in the area 1980s. «Our products, – says Francesco -, both in the liqueur and confectionery fields, are certainly not born from sophisticated and complex. They come from our experience that we value and jealously guard. I am the third generation. I have my grandfather’s name, and I carry on the family business following my predecessors’ teachings. The recipe for our wheat pastiera is about seventy years old. It is not presumption, but I think Gambardella’s pastiera is among the best on the Amalfi Coast because it contains many small details. From the right dosage of aromas up to the maximum freshness of the ingredients that I select from local producers, which is rare to find nowadays”. The orange peel present in the pastiera’s filling is produced in pastry. The cow’s milk ricotta is from Agerola. It is delivered in the shop almost hot in a cloth, a particular not to be underestimated, as by losing excess liquids, it makes the filling more homogeneous. Orange blossoms, cinnamon, shortcrust pastry kneaded without butter but with lard. The wheat slowly cooked in flavored water, adding a minimum amount of ricotta custard as tradition dictates on the Amalfi Coast. Lastly, the fresh orange peel makes this dessert evoke memories of other times even today through the freshness of the ingredients and the simplicity of the artisanal production processes, despite the contemporary evolution of processing methods in pastry.

Pasticceria del Borgo’s chocolate rice pastiera

The rice pizza or rice pastiera is a typical Easter cake from Tramonti, a variant of the more common Neapolitan pastiera where rice replaces wheat and cocoa. It was prepared close to Holy Week and cooked in a wood oven. The smell of cinnamon and orange aroma covers the whole neighborhood, and all together, the women of the family found themselves preparing these delights. Raffaele Giordano, the co-owner with his wife Marialuigia Ferrara of Pasticceria del Borgo in the hamlet of Figlino, boasts an excellent curriculum.  He collaborated with the great pastry-chefs of Campania, such as Alfonso Pepe and Antonino Maresca. “Pastry has always fascinated me since I was a child when I saw my grandmother preparing sweets. So I began my studies at the Istituto Alberghiero. After graduating, I had various experiences at various renowned facilities in Campania, including the Hotel Caruso in Ravello, the Hotel San Francesco in Maiori, and essential structures in Paestum “. Raffaele, focused on his work in the laboratory, continues to explain the process of making the rice pastries: “The rice-based filling cooked in milk with aromas of orange, cinnamon, cocoa, eggs, and sugar, is poured in a casket of shortcrust pastry. I keep the ancient recipe without shortcrust pie and without ricotta that someone inserts at will. The Concerto liqueur’s aroma, typical of Tramonti, gives the dessert a unique flavor. The liqueur is born like so many gastronomic specialties inside the convents “.

The Pasticceria del Borgo twist on the pastiera, courtesy of the pastry shop

Angelo Pasticceria Artigianale 1970 and the citrus pastries

“I dedicate our pastiera to the citrus fruits of the Amalfi Coast to my father Angelo, an enormously talented pastry chef who taught many professionals in the area and left us a few months ago.” Still skeptical about what happened, Luigi Collina, currently the owner of Angelo Pasticceria Artigianale 1970 in Positano with his sister Manuela is careful not to leave any detail out of place in his confectionery production. The family tradition finds its roots in cleanliness, the authenticity of the raw material, and respect for the customer. «Ours is a traditional pastry shop even though my sister has recently introduced some innovations such as cake-design and number-cake. Our shop was the Bar Mulino Verde in Positano. Now it is in Fornillo and the laboratory in Praiano. The pastiera with citrus fruits is complete with the essences of Sfusato Amalfitano and orange from our gardens. The wheat absorbs all the aromas of organic lemon when it cooks with milk, and the shortcrust pastry is also lemon-flavored, rich in grated zest inside. We add to the ricotta mixture and the remaining aromas with a candied orange pureed peel of our production. It is like diving into the sea of Positano or being in the shade of a lemon grove in Praiano on a hot summer day. Definitely to try ».

The Colomba made with Sfusato Amalfitano by Pasticceria Savoia, courtesy of the pastry shop

The Sfusato Colomba from Amalfi by Pasticceria Savoia

The Amatruda family founded the Pasticceria Savoia in Amalfi in the early years of the last century, thanks to grandfather Gaetano’s initiative and entrepreneurial spirit. The laboratory baked the classic sfogliatelle and pasticciotti with cream, cassata, and pastiere for holidays; the babà, the almond pastries, and the Margherita cake to taste and offer to guests. Today the third generation has arrived at the helm of the pastry shop with Carolina and Sara. They have taken up the challenge of bringing together a centuries-old tradition with the needs of young and creative entrepreneurship. The dove is undoubtedly not from Campania, so much so that it was invented by Motta in Milan in the 1930s and had immense commercial success, like panettone. Then taken up by Angelo Vergani in the 1940s, the recipe is made with a leavened dough with eggs, butter, sugar, flour, candied orange peel, and an almond glaze. Currently, as was the case with panettone, doves have undergone an evolution. Pastry shops and restaurants offer them in a gourmet version or savory one. «We are still based on the principles of tradition, on quality rather than quantity, – said Michele Guida, husband of Sara Amatruda -. Taking a cue from the classic Colomba and focusing on the Amalfi area’s symbolic ingredients, with a leavening process of at least twenty-four hours, we offer a Colomba stuffed with candied lemon peels and a delicate lemon ganache cream. Then we cover the cake with white chocolate and lemon white chocolate drops. Our dove is very refined and wants to celebrate the glories of the Ancient Maritime Republic “.

Useful information

Pasticceria Pansa, Piazza Duomo 40, Amalfi, pasticceriapansa.it

Pasticceria Gambardella, C.so Vittorio Emanuele 37, Minori, gambardella.it

Pasticceria del Borgo, via Iasore, 17, Tramonti

Angelo Pasticceria Artigianale 1970, viale Pasitea 159, Positano

Pasticceria Savoia, via Matteo Camera 2, Amalfi, savoiapasticceria.it

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