Thursday, April 26, 2007

La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita...

Or, how many ways can you get your sugar high? Despite the Italians’ insistence that they do not like things troppo dolce, the country is filled with sweet treats – from gelato to tempting pastries, the sugary stuff is everywhere. Especially in the caffes. As previously mentioned, coffee is a national pastime and no self-respecting Italian drinks their caffe straight, but always sweetened…sometimes with three packets of sugar to one little, teensy espresso cup. Last week I watched while one guy tipped the pre-measured sugar dispenser over his cup five times. Yep, that’s five teaspoons to one cup. Obviously that dude didn’t get the memo that Italians don’t like things troppo dolce.

In our neighborhood pasticceria there is a buffet of sugar options. There is the ususal dispenser, but then there are overflowing bowls offering an assortment of packets. The disgusting chemical “diet” sweetener is available, but an array of others: honey; zucchero di cana (raw sugar); and regular sugar in pacchetti. Plus the flavored sugars…amaretto, cocoa, cinnamon, hazelnut essences in the packets. And sachets of fructose, too.

This display rests atop the glass case wherein is the bounty of pastries that is a feast for the eyes and a snare for the dieter. Cookies, little tortes with fruit or cream fillings, and cake-like confections. Croissants filled with nutella, whipped cream, marmalade or pastry cream (or any combination of those that you would choose.

The nearby chocolate shop is a beckoning temptation that I can rarely resist. Their candies are chocolate perfection, and their gelato flavors…well, they are oh-my-gawd good.

It’s true that la dolce vita really is sweet.


Anonymous said...

I would give anything to be able to try some of those yummy treats right about now.

Do you think drinking espresso is a required taste?

After years of thinking it was way to strong for me, I finally have begun to enjoy it.

Wish I could be in Le Marche instead of North Royalton,Ohio.

KC said...

Those chocolates look delicious. I've also find it interesting that Italians often claim they don't care much for sweet things, while at the same time eating plenty of pastries and putting so much sugar in their espresso. I live in the south, and I think there are even more sweets down here! Some of them are even too sweet for my taste. (But I won't complain, there are lots of others that are just right.)

Valerie said...

Anonymous - I used to think espresso was an acquired taste, but that was before I moved and I now realize it was because in the US they don't know how to make it well! Here, it is so smooth and yummy. With the rituals surrounding coffee drinking, it may well be a *required* taste! ;-)

KC - Yes, it's one of those little quirks, isn't it? Kinda like my friend in Rome who insists Italians love to try new things, especially new foods. As if! I've always thought that the pastries in southern Italy are the best in the country!

Anonymous said...

Hi Valerie,

This is Marlena. I wanted to email you about moving to Le Marche. However, my computer belongs to the school I work for. When I click on your email, it asks me for an admin. password which I don't have.

So I shall give you my email so you can drop me a line if you would like.

Judith in Umbria said...

Valerie, they lie like rugs! Those crostate run from oooh, sweet to gaggingly sweet. When I make American desserts they LOVE them, and then when they make them they substitute sweet pastry, fresh fruit, etc. until it isn't good anymore, and they say, "What's wrong? Mine isn't like yours!"

Now I make them come and cook in my kitchen so I can force them to cut the sugar.

J.Doe said...

I never heard of flavored sugars, although flavored syrup is very close.
I was always amazed when people in Italy put tons of sugar in those little espresso cups and still had a liquid to drink instead of a sludgy mess.

Valerie said...

Judith, that is funny! I had a friend tell me I don't eat enough sugar, because I don't like it in my cappuccino.

J - the flavors are pretty subtle in the packets. I've only tried them once or twice, though.

honestly, do we really need nicknames? said...

Hey there Judith,
I have been trying to get my hands on one of the pre-measured sugar dispensers that they have in Roman cafes (the rotary kind) you know I can get one???

Valerie said...

Hi, but I'm not Judith! ;) Rotary kind? Huh? Like the one in the photo?