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Snapshots from Italy: Pan Frutto Ciociaro

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My Italian friends know well enough by now that any trip with me along for the ride, whether a stroll outside of my own neighborhood or a weekend visit out of town, must include a meaningful encounter with something sweet. It is an unspoken arrangement that works for everyone involved; I get my research done, and they get a chance to show off a hidden pastry gem that I probably wouldn't find on my own.

Such was the case this weekend, during an overnight visit to the tip of the Frosinone province, southwest of Rome. We ventured to the very top of the Ciociaria, a vast geographic swath that extends from Frosinone down to Naples. It is an area rich in history and gastronomic traditions, completely off the beaten path but filled with exciting discoveries.

Pasticceria Battisti is a sweet gem located in Ferentino, one of the principal towns of the Ciociaria. We were greeted with warm smiles and enticing aromas on a late Sunday afternoon, when the spring sun had started to retreat and locals were out and about, walking off the traditional Sunday family lunch. Everything we sampled was excellent, including tiny tartlets made from local, wild cherries, exquisite pasta mandorla, (tender, oval-shaped macaroons made from almond paste) and the most delicious examples I have found so far of Lazio's traditional cookies, tozzetti and ciambelle al vino.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to finding local food treasures is to ask for a taste of the product or dish that the proprietors are most proud of, what is most traditional, and made with the best local ingredients. At Pasticceria Battisti, my question was answered with a slice of their signature cake, pan frutto. After munching in stunned silence and a fair amount of finger licking, the story unfolded before us. Pan frutto is a traditional sweet of the Ciociaria, and the Battisti family has been perfecting its recipe for the past 30 years. It is made on site and in small batches in order to maintain the quality and perfection that is the family's hallmark, as numerous awards on the shop's walls attest.

Leavening agents include a natural "mother" starter that is over 100 years old, creating a texture that is light, moist and melting. The flavors are an blend of sweet butter, local acacia honey, pure vanilla, and the essential oils from the zests of fresh lemons, citron, mandarin oranges and bergamot, all brought up from Sicily. The cake is dotted inside with bits of bittersweet chocolate and adorned with sliced almonds on top. The combination of flavors is truly unlike anything I have ever tasted before—refined and expertly woven into the delicate crumb.

The traditions of Pasticceria Battisti are now in the capable hands of the young, pretty and dynamic Marialucia Battisti, who has a contagious exuberance for her family's recipes and history. Over glasses of lemon soda and shots of espresso, she and her mother explained the painstaking care that goes into everything they make, and it was evident that passion and pride are the most important ingredients found in this little corner of the Ciociaria. Marialucia is searching for just the right arrangement to distribute Pan Frutto on a small scale in America, which has not been easy task. She insists on maintaining the artisanal quality that her family known for, and doesn't want to compromise quality in favor of mass production. In the meantime, she happily ships their handmade Pan Frutto and a fantastic assortment of traditional cookies and biscuits by FedEx. You can visit their shop online at dolcitipicibattisti.it. The website is in Italian, but you can send an email to Marialucia in English at their address to arrange a delivery.

Pasticceria Battisti

Via V. Casilina, 03013, Ferentino (FR) Italy
Phone: +39 0775.397727

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