The Best Among The Best: Sfogliatella di Lama dei Peligni

On a grey wet afternoon, I arrived to Lama dei Peligni on a mission: to taste one of famous Abruzzo desserts the authentic local sfogliatella di Lama dei Peligni, or “sfuiatell” in the local dialect. There are many imitations of this delicious pastry in Abruzzo, but to find the real deal you have to go to the village.

abruzzo dessertsTraditionally, sfogliatelle, shell-shaped pastries filled with cream, came from Napoli. However, at the end of the 19th century Donna Anna Guglielmo-Tabassi, the baroness of Lama dei Peligni, decided to adapt the famous pastry using only the ingredients from the area with spectacular results. However, the recipe was kept secret for a long time and only about 50 years ago it became public. I love the delicate crunchy shell of the pastry and the rich filling made with grape jam, amarena cherries, grape must, walnuts and cacao. It is not a treat for vegetarians, though, as before baking the dough is often smothered generously in lard. It gives the pastry a beautiful golden colour and, I reckon, makes it more addictive. Eating one just never seems enough!

lama-dei-peligniEvery year the village organises a sfogliatella di Lama dei Peligni competition among the locals where the best among the best (“La più buona fra le buone”, as the festival’s posters declare) pastries is chosen and the winner gets a trophy, a silver sfogliatella.

There are a few bars, cafés and pasticcerie in the village and each of them makes their own version of the sfogliatella. I tried one in the bar Diamonds near the central piazza. It was generously dusted with icing sugar, tasty but sweeter than I expected. Then I bought another sfogliatella (one is never enough!) from a swanky pasticceria I Segreti di Donna Anna and it was perfect: crispy layered pastry, a delicious filling with a slightly sour note of the amarena cherries. Exactly the way I wanted it!

lama-dei-peligniRain didn’t stop the locals from celebrating the festival of sfogliatella: benches were lined up in the piazza, folk music was playing and a few men, well into their 80s, whirled a few young ladies around.

lama-dei-peligni4Where to buy sfogliatella di Lama dei Peligni:

I Segreti di Donna Anna, Via della Resistenza, 6

Pasticceria di Emilia Pasquale, Via Frentana, 120

Sweet Birds From The Province of Chieti

The other day I bought some celli pieni, soft biscuits filled with rustic grape jam called “scrucchjata”, cocoa, lemon zest and almond. Their name derives from “uccelli ripieni” (“stuffed birds”) and in old days the biscuits were shaped as birds. Traditionally they were made for Christmas but nowadays you can find them in small traditional bakeries in the province of Chieti.

abruzzo dessert

Until recently celli pieni were also made for young women who were getting married and leaving their family homes as symbols of fertility. Today it is hard to find them in elaborate bird shapes, more often they look like simple fat rings but they still taste delicious. The dough is very simple, with just a few ingredients: flour, sugar, olive oil and white wine. Here you will find a good recipe (in Italian) if you decide to make these sweet birds at home. If you are visiting Abruzzo, check out these small bakeries where fresh delicious celli pieni are every week:

Alla Chitarra Antica, Via Sulmona, 2, Pescara

Forno Zulli, Via Mazzini, 12, Rocca San Giovanni

L’arte del pane, Via Nazario Sauro, 31, San Vito Chietino

Pasticceria Lidia, Via Paolini, 31, San Vito Chietino