La Dolce Vita

Dolce Italia presents End on a Sweet Note, a true taste of Italy

Italian television personality Raffaella Carrà in a 1980s magazine ad for Motta Panettone.

Italian television personality Raffaella Carrà in a 1980s magazine ad for Motta Panettone.

While Italy is rightly renowned around the world for its food and wine, its desserts and after-dinner drinks are often overlooked. Hugely popular in Italy but relatively unknown abroad, the country’s vast array of grappe and digestivi are an ideal way to end a meal. Likewise, many Americans are still unaware of the wonders of panettone and pandoro, Italy’s traditional holiday cakes.

Now Dolce Italia is looking to increase awareness of these fantastic products, all of which are readily available right here in the US. Dolce Italia, the name used by Aidi (Associazione Industrie Dolciarie Italiane) abroad, has teamed up with the Italian Trade Commission and Asti D.O.C.G. to present End on a Sweet Note, an event designed to introduce New Yorkers to the wonderful world of Italian desserts and spirits. This fine initiative will take place at 16 participating restaurants — including I Trulli, Centovini and Vino — from December 3 to 13. Visitors will be treated to a glass of Asti Spumante and a delicious Italian dessert, ranging from Sicilian cookies and dark chocolates to the aforementioned panettone and pandoro.

Motta panettone and Bauli pandoro will be available at I Trulli and Centovini this week!

Motta panettone and Bauli pandoro will be available at I Trulli and Centovini this week!

Panettone is the traditional Milanese holiday bread, made of a light, softly textured dough, and usually incorporating dried and candied fruit. Pandoro, from Verona, is a tall, frustum-shaped sponge cake, typically showered with vanilla-scented powdered sugar to resemble snowy peaks. Packaged in pretty boxes and tied with ribbon, Italians often warm them over a radiator for several minutes to recreate that just-baked sensation. Commercials for panettone and pandoro by the big manufacturers (Motta, Bauli, Maina, Balocco and, best of all, Tre Marie) dominate the airwaves in December, invariably featuring excited children and snow-covered landscapes.

In Italy, where people take their holidays almost as seriously as they take their food, panettone and pandoro are as ingrained into holiday culture as babbo natale. Indeed, Italians are routinely scrutinized for their preference for panettone or pandoro (as if liking both would be an impossibility), in a bizarre twist on a Beatles-Rolling Stones cultural divide or Mets-Yankees (or in this case maybe Milan-Inter) sporting allegiance.

I confess to being 100% panettoniano — I can’t resist the fruit and find pandoro a little too sweet and cakey. I’d even go so far as to consider panettone the third best reason to live in Italy, behind Campari Soda and La Gazzetta dello Sport (which take precedence simply by virtue of their year-round availability). Christmas morning just wouldn’t be the same without a cappuccino, a glass of spumante and a large wedge of panettone, a holiday ritual which instantly evokes the unmistakable atmosphere and aromas of an Italian bar at breakfast. Luckily for me, my friends in Italy are well aware of my passion for panettone, and I am happy to report that a large classico milanese is making its way to my house via airmail as I write! Grazie Poste Italiane!

End on a Sweet Note, New York, December 3-13, 2008.

End on a Sweet Note, New York, December 3-13, 2008.

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