Sweet lovers will swear that it’s worth the 5km uphill trek to Fiesole to get to Alcedo’s, but there is a regular bus (#7). Tourists who don’t venture beyond the main square, monastery or Roman ruins are missing out on one of the city’s biggest charms.
Alcedo’s is a neighborhood bakery with a pedigree. Don’t be put off by the pocket-square size, or the relatively dark atmosphere. This is not the place to while away the morning regardless, as there are only a couple of stools at a narrow counter running down a side wall and you will have to jockey for a position that isn’t directly in the way of locals coming up to pick up exquisite pastries to give as hostess gifts or to take to a special event.
Those cookies don’t look like much, but their flavors bedazzle. You can’t go wrong. Crisp, thin buttery almond wafers have a deep roasted nut flavor and aren’t too sweet. They are excellent alongside an espresso. Buttery shortbread sandwiches tangy blackberry jam and bittersweet chocolate for a delicious variation on a classic combination. Soft, chewy, almond paste forms the base for diverse cookies with almost fruity, aromatic almond flavors. Or for the truly indulgent there is a small bar cookie that combines the best of everything: crunchy and savory roasted pistachios bound together in a soft smooth almondy paste, and then dipped in dark bittersweet chocolate. Get a mixed bag and try everything, theoretically they keep well, that is if you can refrain from devouring them.
Alcedo’s is also the pinnacle of the Tuscan classic dessert, Torta della Nonna; they will ruin your for anything else. They have inverted the ratios; a thin buttery crust made fragrant with a hint of lemon peel barely contains thick creamy custard bursting with vanilla flavor. The custard rivals pot de crème, it is such a far cry from the more typical heavy pastry cream versions often encountered. Dark roasted almonds garnish the top crust; providing an occasional nutty crunch to offset the smooth custard.
They have also successfully re-engineered the often dull and dense Budino del Riso (Rice Pudding Tartlet) filling a soft tender crust with a delicate rice pudding that combines the lightness of texture of whipped cream with the eggy richness of custard. A few rum soaked raisins complete the confection.
If you’re coming to Fiesole, definitely make the detour.
Signature Dishes: Pasta di Mandorla (Almond Cookies)
Get It!: Torta della Nonna (Custard Tart), Almond Cookie with Dried Fruit and Chocolate, Pistachio Cherry Cookie
Via Gramsci, 29, Fiesole. tel: +39 055 59349