Oh my gosh.
I could talk about how I completely missed my alarm (and my workout) the morning I ate this cornetto. I could talk about how cold it was outside and how my hands nearly froze to the wax paper bag as I ate. I could also talk about how I freaked out about the possibility of snow for the entire day.
But I’m not.
Instead, I’m talking about how the brioche con marmellata from Spadaro was the best brioche that I’ve had in Italy. I am willing and eager to make this authorative statement. I also highly doubt that I’ll find one that surpasses it, at least not of the marmalade variety. It’s only a matter of time before a chocolate brioche from Spadaro passes my lips.
I was a bit of a wreck that week (that is from 10 December – 16 December 2012). Between getting sick on Monday evening, losing Tuesday to the mountain of green tea that my host mother suggested I drink to sistemare lo stomaco (literally: order the stomach) and the threat of snow, my mind was somewhere else. When I got up late on Thursday morning the only thing I wanted was Saturday (because that was when the snow was supposed to finish), so I decided to bring a spot of Saturday to myself.
I’d been wanting to try everything inside Spadaro (a panificio that I must pass every day on my way to lectures) since I first arrived in Pavia. Until recently, I’d only tried a couple things: some mediocre white bread, a pasta frolla cookie and a pane alle uvette (Italy’s version of cinnamon raising bread). The brioche was the thing that fascinated me the most as I walked by every day. This wasn’t a cafe, though. They didn’t have any place for me to sit down and watch the world go by as I chomped. They weren’t going to serve me a macchiato, a cappuccino or even a measely shot of espresso. If I wanted to fare colazione with a Spadaro brioche, it was going to have to be a DIY version.
So I decided I was ready to DIY by eating my brioche in front of class like a true Italian student (though not like the girls who seem to only drink spremuta alla pesca, or peach juice, for breakfast). I walked in and asked which of the cornetti on display were vuota plain. The woman working behind the counter didn’t know, guessed the one covered in powdered sugar was, plopped it in a bag and handed it to me. I paid my euro and left, the coated paper bag burning a hole in my frigid hand during the five minute walk to university that had suddenly become too-long.
When I got to university I situated the cornetto inside the bag and took a bite, holding it like the Italians do. Dio Mio! I thought. This was fantastic. The edges were crispy and the inside was light and airy. There wasn’t any taste of butter, it wasn’t trying to taste of butter. Instead it managed to capture the perfectly strange Italian taste and marry it with the perfect taste of layered pastry. It was almost like eating a mille-feuille without cream or a jam tart for breakfast. I was astonished. It was just so good.
I eagerly ate it, not phased even when I encountered jam. Unlike the sticky congealed lumps that live in some cornetti, the jam here was soft and fresh and worked perfectly with the light and crispy texture of the brioche. It tasted like Italy. It wasn’t trying to be a croissant, it was just a brioche. It was just what it was.
It made the fact that I had gotten up late a little easier to deal with. It made the whirling uncertainty about the weather a little more palatable. It was so good that I didn’t even mind eating it outside, staring at some statues of historic figures who went to Pavia. At least I had some people to keep me company.
I may not be able to find the definitively best croissant in Bristol or New York, but for right now I am content to say that the best brioche in Pavia can be found at Spadaro.
Do you have any definitive favorites in your hometown? Share!