I have a very cool cousin from Rome who lives in Paris and works there as a journalist. She usually covers culture and politics but she recently wrote a piece for Le Monde that melted my heart. Said piece was dedicated to “maritozzi”, a very Roman delicacy that, as it turns out, is finally leaving the Capital’s borders to bring happiness to more people.
Other local specialties such as Naples’ pastiera or Sicilian cannoli are enjoyed all over Italy, while maritozzi (plural of maritozzo), with their unflattering, unstylish name, have a less colonizing nature, and therefore have almost always remained confined within Rome. So much so that whenever I visit the city of my ancestors, one of my uncles welcomes me with a little tray of these soft, sweet, sultry delicacies.
But what exactly is a maritozzo? Imagine a very light-weight dough-based bun, impressively soft and not particularly sweet, cut lengthwise on one side and fill it with airy, delicious, freshly whipped cream. There: it’s very simple, but it’s also the food of angels. And a big one too: you may feel a little scary when you have it served to you, but will end up eating the whole thing.
I’ve read some fascinating stories about this pastry’s story and its inherently Roman identity. For example that its name isn’t a false friend but is indeed derived from “marito”, Italian for husband: so much so that it seemed that in the XIXth century it became tradition for aspiring husbands to propose to their other half offering a tray of maritozzi, on the first Friday of March. Or that during the Middle Ages this was one of the very few foods that were allowed during Lent’s fasting, with people even renaming it “Holy Maritozzo“. I’d advise you to take all this information with a grain of salt, as I didn’t exactly go for a fact-checking, but found it fascinating all the same.
But why am I writing about maritozzi, aside from the fact that I am currently on a diet and therefore more fascinated than ever with carbs and everything sweet? Well, as it happens, maritozzi have finally made an appearance on some selected shelves right here in old dear Bologna. A city, it is worth reminding, that is as rightfully celebrated for its fresh pastas and savoury lunch recipes ad it is painfully deficient when it comes to patisserie and sweet pastries. Therefore any addition is welcomed, and one as shamefully self-indulgent as this one is a blessing.
So, where are these secret addresses that can offer you a sweet bite of Rome? One is Regina di quadri, an already remarkable bar and patisserie on Via Castiglione and a stone’s throw from Giardini Margherita: just get yourself a maritozzo and go eat it in the park, enjoying the view of pink blossoms and the sound of the pond’s fountain. You’re welcome.
Another place that recently added maritozzi is Sartoria Gastronomica on Piazza Aldrovandi. I must admit that finding a layer of custard cream underneath the whipped cream confused me a bit, but I’m quite a reactionary in the food department, and nowadays in Rome you can find maritozzi with chocolate, pine nuts, raisins and even prosciutto, so I guess I’ll just have to suck it up.
Finally, Via del Pratello’s gourmet pizza place Mozzabella has been offering maritozzi for quite a while now, pioneering the introduction of this very Roman treat to the sometimes suspicious bolognese palates, so it definitely deserves a mention, along with my respect. And they also do delivery, in case you were wondering.
I’m sure there are other places serving maritozzi in Bologna, feel free to recommend them in the comment section. And if you haven’t tried a breakfast with maritozzo yet, now it’s the time.