Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I’ve always been fascinated by the pastry shop Pasticceria Siciliana Svizzera. Friends always talk about it, in loving terms, as one of those Roman classics. When I ask “What do you mean? Switzerland and Sicily? What’s that about?” they just kind of give me a blank stare. Like, duh, of course there is a pastry shop in Rome that combines traditions from Southern Italy and north of the Alps.
It’s remained a bit of a mystery to me due partly to it’s location. It’s along the Via Gregorio VII, in that weird piazza that’s not really a piazza, Pio XI. I’ve seen it many times, as we were heading towards the Aurelia, on our way out of town. But if you’ve ever driven on Via Gregorio VII, then you’ll understand why I couldn’t simply pull over. Gregorio VII is one of the most frustrating streets in Rome: stop lights where you don’t expect them, seemingly no where to turn off, and absolutely no way (that I can see) of making a u-turn once you’ve driven past a delicious looking pastry shop.
But yesterday I had to take the Smart in for its annual check up, which is something Sophie usually does. Which is why I never realized the Smart garage is located in....Piazza Pio XI!
Once I got the car all settled in for its over night visit, I took my life in my hands, crossed the ‘piazza’ and finally got through the front doors of the Pasticceria.
Now I can see what all the fuss was about. Cases groaning with Sicilian goodies. Baroque cassate, with crowns of candied fruit. Mini versions of cassate, cannoli and other almond-based pastries. What was Swiss? I guess it must have been the more ornate cakes, piled high with whipped cream, chocolate, nuts and berries. They certainly didn’t look Italian to me, and since I don’t quite know what Swiss cakes look like, they convinced me.
It turns out I was right. According to their web site, in the 19th century a few famous Swiss pastry makers moved to Southern Italy - to Palermo, Naples and Catania. The result was a marriage between the Arab-influenced Sicilian tradition and the more refined Swiss. And so the southern Italian repertoire was enriched by about 100 recipes using things like whipped cream, chocolate and pastry cream. In other words: fancy cakes.
Since it was 9 am, I thought it best to skip the whipped cream and chocolate, and instead went straight for the morning pastry section. Although the doughnuts and brioche looked tempting, I fell for the cream and raisin-studded Danish. And don’t think I’m just calling it a Danish because I’m American. They actually call them Danese. So there.
And it’s not just a pastry shop, it’s a bar too, that does perfect cappuccino.
If I had arrived a bit later, I would definitely had walked over to the salty side of the shop, where arancine were filled with everything from pistachios to salmon. They also had something that looked less like a mozzarella in carozza and more like a croque monsieur. I guess that must be Swiss too. I have to go back today, to pick up the Smart. Looks like I'll get to do more research.
Pasticceria Siciliana Svizzera
Piazza Pio XI , 10