I don’t consider myself a ‘sweets’ person. If I have to choose between mortadella stuffed in pizza bianca and a slice of cake, I go straight for the pork sandwich without hesitation.
The fact that I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, however, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate dessert! Discussing this with a client earlier today, her elder grandmother’s knowledge shed the following insight on the matter: it is scientifically proven that certain individuals have a second stomach. One for food, and one for dessert. I think I am of that bovine species. Despite how well I’ve eaten – and how full I am – I always consider dessert at the end of the meal, especially if the company is joyful and the savory portions were on point.
Italian sweet meal endings can be of two kinds, the “nonna’s homemade pie” kind, baked for the occasion and whatever is left over becomes merenda, every child’s perfect afternoon snack; and the “pastry shop find” kind. I tend to lean towards the latter. I’m not a huge fan of jam crostata, but show me a fried bigné and I am won over. It is a Sunday lunchtime tradition to buy “pasticcini” intended for dessert in the morning, and then open the wrapped package for communal ravaging.
Rome can count on a wide choice of artisanal pastry shops that consistently provide locals with morsels of sweetness. Here is my shortlist of 5 favorite pastry shops in Rome:
Pasticceria Cinque Lune
The “five moons” pastry shop on Corso Rinascimento, at a stone’s throw from Piazza Navona, is at its fourth generation of artisan bakers since founder Salvatore Anzuini opened shop in 1902. Today Claudio Anzuini and his team bake mouthwatering bite-sized versions of classic cakes (Montblanc, Sacher, Mimosa and Kranz – a semi-sweet braided breakfast bread – to mention a few) and fabulous pastries like sfogliatelle, fruit tartlets, éclairs, zeppole, and the establishment’s signature antichi romani, an ancient Roman recipe for pastry dough stuffed with ricotta cheese, honey and flecked with sesame and poppy seeds. Open daily.
It smells wonderful in the small Jewish bakery in the heart of the Ghetto Ebraico, and the aroma wafts in the small piazza all day long. Their crostata di ricotta and visciole tart is delightful, and there’s always a long line of people snaking out of the shop to bring either that or almond biscotti, ginetti and other dry biscuits home. After some small talk with Wilma or the other signoras that work the counter, I walk out with a pocketful of pizza ebraica fruit cake, roasted pumpkin seeds, and a big smile on my face. Closed Saturday.
This traditional bakery in the Esquilino neighborhood, only a few steps from Piazza Vittorio has been baking all sorts of pastry delights since 1916, and the house special is the all-Roman maritozzo, a fragrant oblong brioche slit open and filled with freshly whipped cream. Taking one to go (there’s no seating) during your passeggiata doesn’t get much more Roman. Closed Tuesday.
Andrea De Bellis’ traditional confections inspired by French patisseries are a contemporary twist of Italian classics. Take away a monoporzione (single serving) of Assoluta (signature De Bellis chocolate mousse cake), profiterole, mini-bignès, or a pastry in the shop with complimentary caffè Americano served in large mugs. Closed Monday.
The Ponte Milvio area in northern Rome is a favorite stomping ground for younger crowds that congregate at aperitivo spots located near the namesake bridge. Mondi is a famed pastry shop in the area that attracts Romans of all ages. Cakes, bite-size gelato cones dipped in chocolate and assorted mini-pastries are the main attraction, but savory sandwiches and canapés are equally delightful.
What’s your favorite pastry shop in Rome?
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, freelance food and travel writer, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her shows “ABCheese” and “Uazz’america” are broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso Channel. Her podcast “iCheese” is recorded live on the Radio Food Live network.