ROMANENGO OF GENOVA AND THEIR 18TH CENTURY SWEETS
It is quite something to discover history right under one’s nose. This was my experience when I first walked into the multistoried building that houses the Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano Candy Works in Genova, Italy. I was taken there by a Genoese marchesa who is a good customer of the firm. Just walking into the workshop is like visiting a “confiseur-chocolatier” from almost two centuries ago.
Here, a small stone mill grinds cocoa beans to produce Romanengo chocolate. In the next room, fresh fruit is candied in huge water baths, heated basins filled with sugar and glucose syrup. An enormous copper basin is used for the production of candied chestnuts, glacéed “a la volée,” and the rose petal zucchero rosato. Up very steep stairs is the candy making section where the comfitted candies (confetti or dragées) are made.
The traditional “confetti” of Avola almonds are a specialty for weddings. Traditionally Genoese, however, are the confetti of pinenuts (pinoli confettati), sweet fennel seed (finocchietti), and tiny pieces of cinnamon (cannellette) turned and sugared in shiny copper basins. The various “souls” of these comfits have a long history. The “finocchietti canditi,” fennel comfits, were used as far back as the Middle Ages as gifts to lactating mothers to help them produce more milk. These are some of the famous Renaissance “servizi di credenza,” sideboard sweets for after dinner.
Large marble tables are used for the pouring of sugar fondants, the demi-sucrés, possibly the most difficult sweets to make in sugar working. Plaques filled with cornstarch are used to solidify the sugar and liqueur mixtures, poured by hand, that make up the tiny, liquid filled pastilles called ginevrine and gocce al rosolio, rosolio drops. Gelatine di frutta, fruit gels, are made with a base of ripe fruit from the Riviera. Romanengo is the last producer of a sweet made from “manna,”(see Exodus 16: 15and 31) the exudate of the ash tree (Fraxinus ornus [rotundifolia]) that grows in Sicily, blended with sugar and egg whites and called conserva di manna.
Zucchero rosato, one of the oldest preserves, is made from fresh, multi petalled, highly aromatic pink roses cooked with sugar syrup. Latte di mandorla is made from freshly ground almonds, water and sugar syrup cooked together. It makes a delicious drink and has varied uses in the kitchen. Small, aromatic, sour cherries are used to make a unique confettura di amarene. Marroni in sciroppo, whole candied chestnuts in syrup, are one of the firm’s specialities. The addition of orange flower water makes them unique.
Romanengo is not the only reason to visit Genova on your next visit to Italy, but it is a pretty good one. At the two Romanengo shops you can see their vast assortment of candied fruit–they candy almost everything–and also make a whole series of antique sweets from almond paste which are sold only in season, either the fall or during Lent.
Romanengo’s logo gives 1780 as the firm’s foundation date. When you taste the Romanengo products, you are literally transported to that time. If you have ever perused old confectionary books such as Jarrin’s Italian Confectioner (1823), Nostradamus, Traité de Confitures (1557), or Vicenzo Corrado’s Il Credenziere di Buon Gusto (1778), a lot of the recipes and techniques therein described are still followed at Romanengo. Romanengo’s products are those of the “credenza” or sideboard, where they would be displayed and put on the table after a meal to show how munificent a host could be. Remember, at one time sugar was very expensive!
Interestingly, Romanengo has an early connection to the U.S. One of their bills of lading dated August 1780, consigns a shipment of two quintals (480 pounds) of candied fruit to their importer, Fratelli Bo of New York. The reputation of Genoese candied fruit even then was very famous.After six generations, the Romanengo artisanal heritage of “confiseur-chocolatier” continues to thrive. Their production is unique, both in flavor and history. I have made a selection of Romanengo’s unique, traditional products. (A good deal of Romanengo’s production cannot be shipped; you must taste it in Genova.) I am very pleased to offer these specialties to our customers at this holiday season.
CONFETTI (comfits or dragées)
Finocchietti (Candied sweet fennel seeds) 45g acetate box. Out of stock.
Cannellette (Candied tiny cinnamon sticks) 45g acetate box. Out of stock.
Pinoli confettati (Candied pine nuts) 45g acetate box. Out of stock.
Confettura di amarene extra (Amarena cherry jam) 200g or 450g jar. Out of stock.
Conserva di Manna 200g jar. Out of stock.
Zucchero Rosato 350g jar. Out of stock.
Marroni in sciroppo (Whole glacéed chestnuts in syrup) 200g jar. Out of stock.
Latte di mandorla (Almond milk syrup) 200ml bottle. Out of stock.
FONDANTS AND DEMI-SUCRÉS (fondants or bonbons)
Goccie al rosolio (Rosolio drops) 45g acetate box. Out of stock.
Flavors: pink, rose; yellow, peach; green, Chartreuse; blue, anise; orange, curaçao; white, cherry.
Ginevrine (Scented pastilles) 45g acetate box. Out of stock.
Pink, rose; yellow, banana; green, Chartreuse; blue, anise; orange, peach; White, cherry; purple, violet.
Gelatine di frutta (Fruit gelées, various flavors) 300g acetate box. Out of stock.
Fruit shapes, flavors: orange, lemon, banana, strawberry, pear, cherry, blackberry.
Caramelle fondants (various flavors) 250g acetate box. Out of stock.
White fondants, paper wrapped, lemon, orange, raspberry, strawberry, pear, apricot, anise, chocolate.
Our production of marmalade can only be bought from Corti Brothers. We have a selection to offer: The normal, aged production, made in January, 2005, from Seville oranges grown in Sacramento, the capital of California, hence the name; a special production of bergamot marmalade from fruit of my bergamot tree, and the 1997 reserve marmalade, now seven years old.
Corti Brothers Capital Vintage Marmalade is not for everyone. You must like the classic, traditional, bitter marmalade in the first place and appreciate its very long, aromatic flavor. Otherwise, this is not for you. It is however the classic, traditional style and with a production as limited as ours, well worth trying.Corti Brothers Capital Vintage Marmalade 2005 Vintage jar (#8012) Sold out.
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