If this doesn’t make you drool, well, try the lower photo. Sfogliatelli must be the most exquisite pastry ever invented. Found only in Naples, Italy, unless you know the few secret bakeries beyond that make or import this special treat. The one pictured above is a two-inch giant (but not too much to eat, no!). I prefer the smaller version—then I can eat them twice as often!
The crisp, flakey pastry holds a delicate, aromatic surprise:
a creamy ricotta filling, only slightly sweet, scented with bits of candied orange rind.
Sfogliatelle Mary, the most famous purveyor, doles them out warm, as they should be. Powdered sugar is an option—unnecessary in my opinion. All that’s needed is coffee which, in Naples, is the smallest, darkest, strongest, richest of any I’ve had anywhere. I can’t bring home sfogliatelli, but I always have a pound or two of Caffè Kimbo stashed in my luggage.
Sfogliatelli make me happy. They make me happy to visit this unique part of Italy. I especially like place-specific delectables, and I even like that they must be enjoyed in their native locale.
Oh, I can smell the warm, delicate orange perfume, I can taste it, I can hear the pastry crackle as I bite through the hundred paper-thin layers. But where great things lurk, confusion abounds, waiting to trip us up. Be sure you get “sfogliatella riccia,” and not the vastly inferior, unflakey sfogliatelle frolla. Perfection in a pastry.