Pasticceria Attanasio, not far from the Naples train station, is a destination in itself. After spending a day in Pompeii - see my review of our fantastic tour guide - we stopped in Naples for dinner (pizza) and this bakery before transferring to get our train back to Rome. The pizza was quite good but I am passionate about sfogliatella and the praises I'd read about this place had my mouth watering months before our trip began.
We knew we were in the right place when we saw a line out the door even though it was an off time for pastries, the smell of baking wafted out into the chilly February evening air. The sign over the door advertised the item I sought - Sfogliatella Calde - Hot Sfogliatella. When we entered, we saw that they sold other bakery items too but I stuck to the Katie Parla edict that you should stick with what you know the restaurant does best so a half dozen of the riccia (the typical ridged, shell shaped type which are the only kind I've ever had or seen in the U.S) and a half dozen of the frolla to go.
The riccia is the familiar pastry but nothing about Attanasio's version was common. It was impeccably light and did not take on the chewy, tough texture I've encountered with sfogliatella even those from some of the best Italian bakeries in NY. So often that first bite into what should be a rewarding moist center is dry and overbaked like the pastry shell and contains too much or too little candied citrus. Not so here. At Attanasio, your first bite of the warm pastry will force the ricotta filling to burst out between the light and crisp pastry layers. It was an Italian pastry epiphany. Each bite of the riccia yielded a perfect ratio each of pastry and cheese filling even toward the corners. One down, much too quickly, and then it was on to try the more novel frolla.
The frolla isn't ridged, flaky or crisp like the riccia but instead a pocket of soft, delicate dough filled with even more sweet, rich, melty fresh ricotta than the riccia. At first bite the force of the filling inside creates a small eruption in the top of the frolla, the cheese, lava-like oozes through the opening and can get a little messy but really, who cares. This was also a perfect pastry but more of a novelty for me and couldn't decide which one demanded immediate seconds as we decided to indulge in a third piece - I was sharing with my daughter so not as gluttonous as it might seem but a tad piggy for sure. My husband stopped at one of each. Forcing ourselves to close the bag we walked briskly back to the station so we didn't miss our 8p train and to jog off a few of those hundreds? thousands? of calories.
Although not hungry at all through the two hour trip back, it was still hard to keep our hands off the rest and we had no problem finishing the remaining pastry before we returned to NY less than two days later. Even cooled down these sfogliatella were transcendent. The last bites were bittersweet - okay, just bitter -because I knew that when we returned to the U.S., even though we live in Metro NY, I would not find anything close to Attanasio's sfogliattella anytime soon if ever.
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