When you are in an Italian restaurant, there is only one rule you should strictly follow: leave always some space for the cake! Generally, in the section dedicated to desserts, restaurants serve the so called “dolci al cucchiaio”, sweets that you eat with a teaspoon. But you can also find sweets to eat with your finger.
If your problem is reading a menu, fear not. Here is how to survive opening the list of dishes. And when you reach the sweets, here is a list of the most popular desserts that you can generally find all around Italy.
Maybe Tiramisu is the most popular dessert we have. Its origins are uncertain, but what matters is not its history. This delicacy is prepared with mascarpone cheese, coffee, savoiardi biscuits and cocoa. Despite it seems a very simple dessert, finding a good one is not easy. Ask if it is handmade, if not good luck, or pick something else I think Tiramisu has to be fresh or it looses or its flavour.
2. Panna cotta
Cream, sugar and vanilla: only three ingredients for one of my favorite comfort food. It is generally served with a fruit or chocolate sauce. In Sicily there is a version called “Biancomangiare”, which can be translated as “white eating”. It is a special pudding made with cow milk and starch together with other ingredients that can be different from village to village (or even from family to family).
This sweet comes from Piedmont, in particular from the Langhe area. Bunet is a pudding prepared with milk, cocoa, eggs, sugar, rum and amaretti biscuits. The biscuits are also crumbled and used as topping together with caramel sauce.
4. Chocolate/hazelnut cake
There is always a chocolate cake in the restaurants menu, generally prepared with hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds or fruit. A great classic is the cake with pear and chocolate. If you are in Campania, you can find the Caprese, a chocolate cake without flour, so gluten free, for the joy of the poor people suffering from the celiac disease.
The mille-feuille cake can be found in a thousand variations, with fruit, whipped cream, chantilly cream, chocolate and can be served with many different toppings like the vanilla hot sauce.
Although its roots are in Turkey, this cake is traditional also in Trentino and can be found almost everywhere in Italy, especially in the north.
The pasta envelope of Strudel contains a filling generally made with apples and it is normally paired with hot vanilla sauce.
7. Sicilian cannolo
Sometimes restaurants include small pastry in their menu and in Sicilian restaurants spread all around Italy Cannolo cannot be missed. Be aware that this is a seasonal cake as it is prepare with ricotta cheese made with sheep milk. Sheep milk is a winter product, so when you find cannoli in summer, they are generally prepared with a different type of ricotta.
When you find these words in a Menu, it means that you can try different types of small pastry, biscuits or mini cakes depending on the region.
Here you can have cream, jam, fruit, nuts, and anything else that can be found in a cake. Sometimes you can also find Cantucci or Cantuccini, the traditional biscuits from Tuscany to plunge into sweet wine. You eat them with your fingers and match them with limoncello or any other liquor.
9. Ice cream and sorbetto
Ice cream is generally everywhere and can be paired with a macedonia, a fruit salad. You can generally choose one or more flavours.
Sorbetto, sorbet in English, is like ice cream but without milk, so it is lactose free. Generally is served alone in a glass and here you can generally chose one flavour.
Although this is the most famous Austrian cake, it is replicated almost everywhere in Italy and often you can find it in our restaurants. Sacher is probably the most popular alternative to a chocolate cake. But unlike that one prepared in the renowned Hotel in Vienna, here this cake is more creamy both inside and for what concerns the dark chocolate topping. To be honest, for this softness, I prefer it to the original one at the end of a meal, while I enjoy the Viennese Sacher more with a coffee or an afternoon tea.