Panettone choices explode in the Bay Area, thanks to Eataly’s arrival
In the Bay Area, panettone’s been increasing in popularity every holiday season for the past several years — and now Eataly has arrived on the scene with its 50 selections.
We estimate that gives fans of the Italian sweet bread well over 100 variations/brands to choose from at all the retailers now stocking or baking panettone — grocery stores, delis, bakeries, specialty markets and Eataly, the huge Italian food emporium that opened in June at Santa Clara’s Westfield Valley Fair.
“In Italy, it’s not Christmas without the panettone,” said Filippo Faggiani, director of operations for this Silicon Valley store, “and we’re noticing that it’s becoming a part of the holiday tradition here.”
Eataly, which boasts the biggest selection in California, plans to show off its 2022 offerings to customers from Friday, Dec. 9, through Sunday, Dec. 11, at a free tasting event from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Traditional versions featuring a soft, silky dough studded with raisins and candied orange peel abound, but the emphasis these days is on innovation, he said. Pistachios. Cherries. Pears. Coffee cream. Hazelnuts. Liqueurs. All manner of chocolate combinations. Plus vegan and gluten-free holiday cakes.
Chocolate varieties are Eataly’s top sellers, Faggiani said, with chestnut ones also proving popular. At San Jose’s La Villa Deli, owner Patty Bertucelli said the limoncello and tiramisu panettone have been a hit with customers.
Wondering what to buy for the party hosts, relatives and foodies on your gift list? Here’s what’s new or unusual, what’s classic, what’s local, what’s imported:
Muzzi Tommaso’s Panettone Classico>>> This traditional raisin-and-citrus version is the one that Eataly’s two restaurants, Terra and La Pizza & La Pasta, are featuring on the dessert menu this month. A good-sized slice served with mascarpone cream and amarena cherries is $12. (Full versions, $19.90 and $29.90 at Eataly, or online)
Starter Bakery’s Homemade Panettone>>> Bay Area pastry chef Brian Wood and his team have baked panettone — a version with chocolate, orange and almond — for purchase at their Saturday/Sunday farmers market stands or to pick up on Fridays in Berkeley. ($30 for 1-pound version, $50 for a 2-pounder, at markets in Oakland, San Ramon, Castro Valley and Livermore)
Fiasconaro’s Ananas e Albicocca Panetonne>>> Zanotto’s, which stocks 40 varieties of panettone at its Foxworthy store, features a version studded with candied pineapple (ananas) and candied apricot (the albicocca in the name) that will appeal to those who like a panettone that’s slightly sweeter than the classic. It’s topped with icing and pistachios. (1 pound, $21.99, Zanotto’s/Foxworthy)
Pasticceria Filippi’s Panettone Granfrutta (Mixed Fruit)>>> This Italian company’s new cake amps up the dried-fruit quotient with Sicilian lemons and blood oranges, Piedmontese apricots and whole black cherries. It’s part of the huge array of panettone at Market Hall Foods in the East Bay. ($39.95 or $51.95 at locations in Oakland and Berkeley)
Sweet Sicily’s Homemade Panettone>>> The bakers at this Bay Area Italian restaurant that specializes in pastries have made two versions of panettone this year, an original ($28) and a pistachio-chocolate one ($29.50). (Two locations, 100 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale, and 1280 First St., Gilroy)
Rustichella Fig and Chocolate Panettone>>> This is the favorite of Bertucelli, whose front-window display is loaded with holiday cakes. Rustichella also makes versions with cherries, pears, orange. ($39.99 at La Villa Deli, San Jose)
Bonifanti’s Panettone with Candied Chestnuts>>> Chestnuts hold a special place in Italian (and French) Christmas traditions. For this panettone, the nuts are candied, adding a rich, sophisticated touch. The flavor profile is similar to that of dates, so if you love those, you’ll enjoy this one. ($39.90 for 2.2 pounds, Eataly)
Dacasto Panettone al Moscato>>> Grapes soaked in muscat wine replace the traditional raisins in this panettone, which is sweet but not as boozy as you might expect. No candied citrus in this one. (1.6 pounds, $39.99 at La Villa, San Jose)
Manresa Bread’s Triple Chocolate Orange Panettone>>> Baker-owner Avery Ruzicka introduced panettone about four years ago and the bread hasn’t left the holiday menu since. Her version, with its crackly dome, is made locally with organic wheat flour and sugar. ($70 at bakeries in Campbell, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, Santa Cruz or online)
Pasticceria Filippi’s Struca Cake with Black Cherries>>> Market Hall locations also feature struca, a panettone-like confection that is baked with extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter. The shape is different too; it’s a loaf instead of a dome. ($36.95 at Market Hall Foods, Oakland and Berkeley)
Pandoro, the version children love
This tall, star-shaped, Italian sweet bread is beloved by children for two reasons, said Andrea Brambilla, retail service manager at Eataly. First, no raisins or other dried fruit. Second, most of these cakes come with a packet of powdered sugar to add to the bag and shake before serving — and kids have fun doing that, he said. The texture is more like a chiffon than a panettone. It’s traditionally sliced vertically, but if you have a crowd, you can slice horizontally into star shapes.
Panettone for a BIG crowd
Hosting a company party? Or getting married in December and looking for an unusual wedding cake? Eataly has just the thing: A 22-pound Brera Milano classic panettone, about the size of a bass drum. For $500, this should feed up to 100 celebrants, Faggiani said.
Not sure if you like panettone?
For those who have yet to indulge, panettone is a rich bread that eats like a cake but lasts longer, thanks to a leavening process of many, many hours. But they can be pricey, so consider one of these inexpensive ways to find out if you have a passion for panettone:
— Head to your local CVS, Walgreens or discount store where you can buy a full-size Bauducco brand panettone for under $10, often closer to $5 or $6, and a mini-Bauducco for a couple of bucks. This budget-priced panettone, billed as the top seller in the world, is made by the fourth generation of an Italian family that immigrated to Brazil in 1950. The bread’s texture is traditional, but the flavor profile is slightly different because of the addition of bits of dried papaya.
— Eataly sells sealed, tiny domes of imported Italian panettone and pandoro for $4.90 and $5.90. You’ll find them displayed in woven baskets throughout the third floor.
Where to buy panettone
Among the retailers stocking panettone are Berkeley Bowl; Cru and Donato Enoteca (Redwood City); Donato & Co. (Berkeley); Draeger’s (Blackhawk, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Los Altos); La Villa Deli (San Jose), Lunardi’s (Walnut Creek, Danville, San Bruno, Belmont, Burlingame, Los Gatos, San Jose); Market Hall Foods (Oakland, Berkeley); Piazza’s Fine Foods (San Mateo, Palo Alto); Williams Sonoma (Westfield Valley Fair, Stanford Shopping Center); Zanotto’s (San Jose, Sunnyvale).