Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Favorites: Pasticceria Santo Stefano

Awhile back I told you about my favorite place for breakfast outside of the city center and now I want to share my favorite place for breakfast in the center of Bologna. Before going any further, I think it is important to clarify what constitutes breakfast in Italy. There are no big breakfasts with eggs, bacon, pancakes, and toast. If fact, if you describe a breakfast like that to an Italian you will see them squirm with discomfort at the idea and question how anyone could ever eat that much in the morning. Breakfast in Italy consists of a cappuccino and a pastry. And that is a big breakfast! I know many Italians who have nothing more than an espresso. So when I talk about my favorite breakfast spots, I am talking about a pasticceria (bakery) where they serve coffee and pastries.
My favorite spot in the centro (the historical city center of Bologna) is Pasticceria Santo Stefano. When you walk in there are huge display cases on the left full of delicious pastries. If it is the weekend and I have time to spare then I examine all of the goodies in the case, make up my mind as to what I am going to order, and then make my way to the sala (room) in the back where there are many tables and chairs to sit at and even a few couches and comfy chairs which is where I usually make myself at home. If it is a weekday, then I will have my breakfast Italian style standing up at the bar; cappuccino in one hand, pastry in the other. I especially love going to this pasticceria in spring and early summer when they set up the tables outside in the street. You can enjoy your breakfast, people watch, and soak up the first rays of the day as the sun peeks up over the tops of the buildings and if you pick your table just right, you will also catch a glimpse of the Asinelli tower (the tallest tower in Bologna) soaring above the surrounding buildings.
My favorite pastry is the sfogliatine con mele e crema. It is a rectangle piece of flaky, buttery pastry dough with a layer of cream and thin slices of apples on top. It is flaky, sweet but not too sweet, and oh so satisfying! I am normally a very slow eater but each time I order this pastry I find myself taking bite after bite until it disappears and I am left wondering where my pastry went. 
If you are not into sweet pastries, they also have some savory varieties. My favorite is their cereali (multi-grain croissant) which has a nice nutty flavor to it. And if you are in the mood for something a little heavier (even though you will probably get the side eye from most Italians) they often have some of the multi-grain croissants made into a sandwich with speck (salt cured and smoked ham) and brie. Yum!

I highly recommend spending a leisurely Saturday or Sunday morning at this pasticceria. Order a pastry (or maybe two or three – no one will tell and I promise you I did this more than once when I first moved here) and a coffee and relax and enjoy la dolce vita. 

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