While consumers continue to fall in love with all things exotic and ethnic, it would serve retail bakeries’ best interests to expand on classic, well liked Italian products. Italian breads and pastries have the ability to go much further than the staple items the public has come to know. Dig a little deeper and find those Italian pastries and desserts that aren’t in the mainstream. By delving into the lesser known, you will attract customers’ attention and create conversation. This opens the window for selling more products, and selling certain items at a premium price points.
In addition to the usual ciabattas and focaccias, many other Italian bread varieties exist. Some of these lesser known varieties have the potential to be great sellers. They offer the shopper that seeks out new and different breads exciting alternatives to the staples.
Cecìna/Farinata - These two breads, are almost identical. Both breads come from a batter consisting of water, olive oil and chickpea flour. These are usually seasoned with sea salt, rosemary or black pepper. Promote as appetizers or just thin and crispy snacks.
Pandoro - This sweet, yeast bread comes from Verona. It gets a golden yellow color from the egg yolks used along with water, dry yeast, sugar and flour. In Verona, it’s a traditional Christmas bread and moulded into the shape of a star. Promote it in the weeks leading up to Christmas. For the rest of the year, advertise as a rich and sweet Italian dessert bread. Top with home-made whipped cream for an upsell.
Fragunno - A Calabrese stuffed bread served at Eastertime. Resembling a pan-sized cannoli, the stuffing includes salami, pepperoni, soft cheese, ricotta cheese, and eggs. Tradition dictates that the bread is made on Good Friday and served cold on Easter Sunday.
Piadina - Flour, lard, salt, and water make up the typical ingredients of this flatbread from the Romagna region. Piadinerie sell these fresh breads stuffed with items such as cheese, salumi, vegetables, or jams. Regional variation accounts for differences in thickness. Piadina are comparable to a Mexican tortilla.
Cannoli comes to mind immediately when talk of Italian desserts and pastries begins. However, many other Italian pastries have the ability to sell in the retail bakery. Adventurous customers—those who love sweets from other parts of the world and are always on the hunt to try new things—will appreciate some new Italian flavor. Keep your biscotti and cannoli, but add a little variety into your Italian pastry lineup.
Bombolone - An Italian filled doughnut eaten as a snack food and dessert, its dough consists of water, yeast, flour, eggs, salt, sugar, butter and vegetable or canola oil. They’re sprinkled with sugar and filled with fruit jams, chocolate or custard. For authenticity, fill from the top so the filling can be seen. This differentiates the bombolone from filled donuts from other countries.
Zeppola - A deep fried dough ball of varying size but typically about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. The dough is made from butter, salt, sugar, water, eggs and flour. Usually topped with powdered sugar, and may be filled with custard, jelly, pastry cream or a butter-and-honey mixture. The consistency ranges from light and puffy, to bread- or pasta-like.
Sfogliatelle - shell-shaped filled pastries with a texture resembling stacked leaves. The dough uses flour, sea salt, water, lard (softened) and unsalted butter (softened). Usually filled with ricotta, whipped cream or French cream, but many variations exist.
Pizzelle (singular pizzella) - are traditional Italian waffle cookies made from flour, eggs, sugar, butter or vegetable oil, and flavoring (usually anise or anisette, but also vanilla or lemon zest). Pizzelle can be hard and crisp or soft and chewy depending on the ingredients and method of preparation.