I spent a good portion of time last summer poking around bookstores, trying to figure out anything I could about Pavia. My personal favorite book to flip through quickly became Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, which details the best restaurants in cities all across Italy. For Pavese pastry, the author made it clear that Medagliani and Vigoni were the best pastry shops in the city. I was so excited to try them out!
Well, I’ve only just managed to (edit: i wrote this in december and only just got around to publishing it). Italian pastry shops aren’t like American or British ones, where, the better they are, the more money and more seats they have. Instead, they are increasingly strange as their acclaim grows. I’m terrified to go into Vigoni, even though their main location is directly in front of my university. Although I walk by Medagliani every day, the absence of seating has always made me less than eager to actually go in and eat something. I like to take my time, I like to sit. I’m American like that.
In December, however, I made a pact with myself that I would try something new. What better new thing to try than eating your breakfast standing up, in the true Italian style? I was going to Medagliani, gosh darn it!
Instead of selling their crescent shaped breakfast pastry as cornetti/brioche, they call them “croissant francese.” I’m not quite sure why as they offer them only in the typical dizzying array of Italian varieties (’empty,’ chocolate, marmalade, whole wheat with honey, cream) and not the typical French ones (plain, chocolate, almond). The good thing about calling them croissants, however, was that it meant the cornetto I got was not covered in sugar, nor was it layered in a sticky outer coating. I ordered a cappuccio that came with a sprinkling of coco powder on top. It was the only flavor that in the
Eating the so-called croissant standing up was less unpleasant than I expected it to be, but made it a challenge to take my habitual brioche breakfast photo. There were about five women working in the cafe and only a couple other people standing at the bar. I was definitely a source of amusement for them. At least my antics were appreciated.
The croissant was pretty looking, but it was bland and stale. It was dry, though there was a more pronounced butter flavor than I’ve had previously. There was only a hint of distinction between the inner and outer layers. I liked it perfectly fine, but preferred dipping it into my cappuccino. Another habit that got me more than a few raised eyebrows. That could have been because I used my hands to do so, instead of keeping the pastry wrapped up in a napkin.
One thing that’s shocked me about all of the cornetti that I’ve had since being in Italy is the absolute lack of consistency from one pastry to another. There seem to be nearly no similarities. One will be super sweet, one will be dry and the next one will be super dense. I really want to know what the archetypical cornetto is. Is there one? I kind of doubt there is.
Eating standing up: can you do it? Would you want to do it?