Have you ever celebrated the winter holidays without either chocolate or coffee? I have not. Thick smooth dark and sweet chocolate drinks, chocolate balls wrapped in colored tissue paper, chocolate bon bons filled with special liqueurs or grappa, layered chocolate pralines, chocolate chip cookies, cookies rolled in chocolate sprinkles, layered jam filled Sacher tortes, chocolate macaroons, chocolate bricks with or without nuts and or dried fruits, Christmas panettone and zelten have a special appeal during the winter holidays, when locals and tourists visit Rovereto’s coffee-houses, shops, and Christmas market. How could we resist?
BRIEF HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE
Very early, before the creation of festivities, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, chocolate was the sacred drink of the ancient American Toltecs, Mayas and Aztecs. The drink was served to priests, to lords and to important guests during religious and political meetings and during the wedding banquets of the wealthy. In time, with the addition of sugar produced from sugar cane brought to Europe by the Arabs, the sweet cacao beverage became almost a must in American New Spain and throughout Europe where it was sanctioned to be acceptable for Catholics by the Church which felt especially pity on those who fasted for religious purposes.
After the Spanish and European chocolatiers introduced us to the sweet cacao beverage and to the process of reducing to powder cacao and producing chocolate bars, this food of the gods reached us common mortals!
Cacao powder was invented in 1828 by the Dutch Conrad J. Van Houten. The chocolate maker put together a press which produced the cacao powder, mixed the powder with sugar, cacao butter, or milk, and also made chocolate bars. Chocolate spreads, such as Nutella, made it into the common kitchens and into lunch boxes after 1944, when the Italian chocolate maker Pietro Ferrero experienced a shortage of chocolate, and used hazelnut paste with his chocolate supply.
ON CHOCOLATE AND ROVERETO’S EXQUISITA
Walter Tomio’s Exquisita, in Northern Italian Rovereto is not only a chocolate store where cacao beans from various parts of the world are used, and chocolate products of a great variety are sold; it is a world where chocolate spreads, with or without sugar and chocolate pralines are edible masterpieces that play a wonderful palatable role in order to support artistic food design and art history while using popular and unusual flavors, aromas, colors and textures.
Founder of the very first Tomio spice and chocolate adventure was Mr.Arturo Tomio, who in 1920 as a druggist peddler from an ambulant cart, sold his spice and chocolate merchandise throughout the Trentino region. In 1953, his son Tedi sold candies, chocolate and sweets from a downtown Rovereto shop at a Via Scuole address. In 1970 Tedi’s candy place, named La Primula e la Violetta (the primrose and the violet) moved to where it is today. In 2003, Exquisita’s shop was born with a new trademark created by Walter, Tedi’s son. Today Tedi’s son and his wife Anna Rita are the soul of the new named Exquisita store.
Exquisita’s chocolate spreads, with or without cane sugar, cacao beans from African and Caribbean regions, cacao powders enhanced with spices, such as cinnamon and red pepper, Italian winter holiday specialties, such as Trentino’s special Christmas Zelten and Panettone, or Easter dove-shaped sweet breads called Colomba and pralines, layered with chocolates mixed to historic flavors and ingredients, and molded according to artistic shapes, together with special wines, liqueurs and teas, are today Exquisita’s best sellers. There are customers who order their goodies for shipment for throughout Europe and as far as Australia, Japan, USA and Dubai.
Gift baskets at Exquisita might be filled with small square chocolate wonders, such as: Chocolate pralines, flavored with locally grown Monte Baldo saffron; chocolate pralines, dedicated to Venice’s Palazzo Ducale, flavored with orange and Szechuan pepper in honor of Marco Polo; chocolate pralines, filled with Trentino’s grown white raisins and raspberries that celebrate Rovereto’s MART, the modern art museum; chocolate pralines shaped according to Depero’s futuristic designs and soaked in orange flavored Campari; chocolate pralines celebrating the Rovereto’s Archeology Festival prepared with layers of chocolate and acacia honey (honey suckle honey), and chocolate pralines filled with locally distilled grape skin “moonshine” called grappa and dedicated to Mozart, who played his first Italian piano concert in town during Christmas season in 1769.
Not to fall short of ways to celebrate with chocolate, cacao powder and holiday specialties, I add here two very old chocolate cake recipes and Exquisita’s recommendations on how to melt chocolate:
CHOCOLATE CAKE (TORTA DI CIOCCOLATA) ACCORDING TO BROTHER FELICE LIBERA OF AVIO [1734-1792]:
“Pestate con un coltello ventoncia di mandorle senza pelle, e poi passatele per un menestro di ferro forato, indi uniteci 10 once di zucchero fino, 10 once di cioccolata grattata fina, e nuove  uova e mescolate ogni cosa insieme sempre da una parte per lo spazio di un quarto d’ora; di poi sbattete nuove  chiare d’uova con un coltello di legno, accioche’ vi facciano una bella fiocca, a questa mettetela nella sudetta roba, e poi mescolate bene ogni cosa insieme per un altro quarto d’ora; indi aggiungetevi un poco di pane grattato, e scorza di limone minutamente tagliata, oppure scorza di naranza tagliata come sopra, e dategli una o due mescolate; poscia ponete questa composizione nel modello prima unto con butirro fresco e sopra pan grattato, ed indi mandatela al forno a far cuocere; questa torta si puo impastarla dura con quatro sole uova e cuocerla su di una banda…”
English translation from old Italian:
“Chop with a knife twenty ounces of peeled almonds, and pass them through a slotted spoon, then add 10 ounces of fine sugar, 10 ounces of finely grated chocolate, and nine eggs. Stir everything together in the same direction for a quarter of an hour. Beat nine egg whites with a wooden knife [spatula], in order to obtain a nice fluffy peak, and add to the above-mentioned concoction. Mix all ingredients for an additional quarter of an hour, then add a little grated bread [bread crumbs] and minced lemon peel, or peel of orange minced as above and give it one or two stirrings. Place this concoction in the mold [cake pan] previously greased with fresh butter and [dusted ] with grated bread [bread crumbs], then send this cake to the oven to bake. This cake can also be prepared with only four eggs and baked on a griddle…”
WHO WAS BROTHER FELICE LIBERA OF THE BROTHERHOOD OF AVIO (1734 – 1792):
Very little is known about this Northern Italian religious member of the Brotherhood of Avio located in the southern part of the region of Trentino. He had a passion for food and cooking or at least for organizing food events for his community. Born in Avio not far from Rovereto and the Council city of Trento on February 18, 1734, Don Felice Libera left behind a leather bound beautifully hand-written collection of recipes which is to be found in the Public Library of Rovereto under the archive number MS 4526. With a well-organized index set in alphabetical order, Brother Felice’s described specialties are written down on heavy parchment paper. They include American ingredients such as: potatoes which he calls tartufoli and chocolate for a chocolate cake. By 1766, Brother Libera’s culinary and baking skills were instrumental for him being assigned to organize an important regional anniversary event dedicated to St. Innocent, the local patron. From 1762 until 1786 the religious cook was also member of the Pia Scuola di Carita’ of Avio assigned to take care of sick and poor, and celebrated Mass in the Church of Santissimo Corpus Christi in Pieve d’ Avio. He died in his native township of Avio around 1792. Don Felice Libera’s 18th century collection of recipes was donated by Dr. Ruggero Probitzer on December 12, 1947 to the public library of the Comune di Rovereto; Biblioteca Civica G. Tartarotti, Rovereto; Corso A. Bettini, 43 at firstname.lastname@example.org
TORTA SACHER (CHOCOLATE GLAZED SACHER CAKE) ACCORDING TO MRS. ROSALIA CHINI (1913):
Ten generations after the birth of the Trentino native Jesuit Missionary to Mexico and to the Pimeria Alta, Padre Eusebio Chini, (Chini TAV VI and VIII), also known as Father Kino, I found another handwritten recipe collection gathered by Rosalia Chini. It included chocolate as ingredient for a very special chocolate cake recipe. The chocolate glazed and jam layered Sacher Torte became famous in the Austrian capital of Vienna way before 1913. Created around 1832 by pastry chef Franz Sacher, employed by the Austrian statesman and minister of foreign affairs Count von Metternich Winneburg, the dark shiny chocolate Sacher cake was a favorite of Austrian Emperor Francis I. After Franz’s son Eduard opened the Hotel Sacher, next to Vienna’s opera house, the Sacher Torte became a favorite among the elite and popular throughout the Austrian Hungarian empire, including Trentino, which at that time was part of that empire. Now privately owned by the Guertler and Winker family, the hotel Sacher still serves slices of the Sacher cake, with or without freshly brewed coffee and a dollop of beautifully white real whipped cream. As for the first recipe it remains a national secret.
Married to Agostino Chini, son of Giulio Chini (1841), grandson to Pietro Chini (1798), related to a cousin of the famous Jesuit Missionary Father Kino of Segno, who in 1678 had left the home region of Trentino, Rosalia Chini was the mother of Father Kino’s direct descendent Claudio Chini who graciously shared with me his deceased mother’s recipe. Rosalia Chini penned down her most important recipes in a note book dated Segno 1913. Her way to cook and her annotations came from her food preparation experience at the Regina del Bosco Hotel (Waldkoenigin) built in Ronzone in 1883. The hotel, still in business, became a favorite hospitality place after the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef of Habsburg fell in love with the wooded and mountainous region of Trentino. Run by accommodating aristocrats for the emperor’s pleasure the home became a hotel in 1921 run by the Vescoli family (hotelreginadelbosco.com). While some of Rosalia’s recipes were written down in Trentino dialect and some in local German dialect, the Sacher Torte was penned down in simple Trentino dialect Italian.
…Si prenda 15 dkg burro, 15 dkg zucchero, 15 dkg cioccolato, 7 uova, una scorza di limone 8 dkg pane gratato, garofani pestati, 5 chiare. Prima di tutto si misci bene il burro e lo zucchero finche’ e’ molle poi s’aggiunge addaggio un rosso misciandolo bene e cosi’si aggiungono…
English translation from Italian:
…Take 150 gr. [about 5 oz] butter, 150 gr. [about 5 oz] sugar, 150 gr. [about 5 oz] of chocolate, 7 eggs, the zest of a lemon, 80 gr. [about 2-3 oz] [plain] bread crumbs, a pinch of powdered cloves and 5 egg whites. Cream the sugar with the butter until everything is soft and smooth and than add one by one the eggs and everything else [mix, pour in greased pan and bake]…
EXQUISITA’S RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOW TO BEST MELT HIGH QUALITY DARK CHOCOLATE:
According to Exquisita, chocolate’s “personality” is fickle. Before working with it, keep in mind four major “secrets”! First secret: There are over 13,000 varieties of cacao beans, and many different ways to cultivate them. For good results, use dark high quality chocolate produced from fine toasted cacao beans. Second “secret”: Chocolate does not tolerate direct heat. Therefore, chocolate is at its best, if melted indirectly over a water bath or in a microwave oven. Third “secret”: Since chocolate does not tolerate high heat, it is best to melt it in small quantities. Fourth “secret”: Chocolate dislikes being wet, or the contact with water or liquids; therefore, keep the water bath saucepan uncovered; the humid steam could cause the chocolate to solidify.
Melting over a water bath: Take the saucepan, pour in it water, two or three inches high. Place the chopped dark chocolate in the uncovered saucepan’s insert and on a source of heat, heat the water and melt the chocolate making sure that no water, or no liquids, splatter on the melting chocolate. When the chocolate begins to melt, stir it, remove the water bath from the heat source, stir everything to completion, and use the melted chocolate right away.
Melting in a microwave oven: In the microwave place a suitable heat resistant bowl with the chopped chocolate. Turn on, on medium heat. Every 20 seconds check the chocolate and stir. Repeat the step – turn on on medium heat for 20 seconds and stir – until all the chocolate is melted.
How to obtain a shiny, smooth, and evenly melted chocolate glaze: TEMPERATURE is important and vital! After melting the chocolate at a 40-45 degrees C (about 104-113 F) pour the chocolate on a marble surface and while stirring with a stainless steel spatula lower the chocolate glaze’s temperature to 26-27 degrees C (about 78-82 F). Again, pour the chocolate in the water bath insert and again, heat it to 32 degrees C (about 89 F). For best results: Your room temperature should be around 20-22 degrees C (about 68-71 F) and your room humidity should not be higher than 55 %.
EXQUISITA – IN CACAO WE TRUST
Via Felice e Gregorio Fontana, 10
38068 ROVERETO (Trento), ITALY – Tel. 39 0464 420757 or Walter’s cell phone: 39 340 0023275; site: http://www.exquisita.it
ON COFFEE, CHOCOLATE CAKE AND ROVERETO’S BONTADI
My way to serve a fine piece of chocolate cake is with coffee, whether it is a slice of the authentic or the best “Sacher” torte in Rovereto. Coffee which I like to drink at home, or at Bontadi, the oldest coffee bean roastery in Italy.
Bontadi has roasted coffee beans and sold them in Rovereto, and throughout the region, since 1790. However, coffee’s interesting story began long time before, may be around 400 B.C in the southern region of Ethiopia. Coffee legends report that coffee beans were used there, after locals, especially a certain local sheepherder, noticed how sheep loved munching on coffee beans showing later an unusual liveliness. Roasting the beans and brewing them with water for coffee became a local habit, which in time reached the entire Muslim world. In 1683, the defeated Turks left the coffee beverage tradition outside Vienna’s city walls. In 1685, the Armenian Johannes Theodat opened to Viennese the first coffee shop, and several others followed. When in 1719 Austrian Emperor Charles VI gave the Northern Italian port of Trieste tax-free status business men from throughout the territory imported coffee beans for roasting and brewing coffee. The coffee craze hit Central Europe and in 1790, Mr. Bontadi brought imported coffee to Rovereto and roasted it on location. To reach his out of town customers, Mr. Bontadi equipped a special moto-bike with a coffee grinder and a case filled with roasted coffee beans. Today, Mr. Bontadi’s main office and coffee roasting facilities are still in Rovereto where they were in the 18th century. Generations have passed and a son in law runs the business. Bontadi now imports coffee from Trieste and Genova, roasts the beans to an updated customers’ taste, and shows the progress Bontadi underwent in a special Bontadi Coffee Museum since Italians love coffee!…According to the Federazione Italiana Pubblici Esercizi (FIPE), every year Italian bars serve 6 billions of espresso cups…and there are cities in Northern Italy, such as Rovereto and Trieste, which contributed and still contribute to this typically Italian love affair.
THE MODERN WAY TO ROASTING COFFEE AT BONTADI IN ROVERETO, NORTHERN ITALY:
BONTADI 1790 ANTICA TORREFAZIONE D’ITALIA
TORREFAZIONE CAFFE’ BONTADI s.r.l
Vicolo del Messaggero 10, 38068 ROVERETO (TRENTO) – Tel. + 39 0464 421 110 or Fax + 39 0464 401 367 – accessible at email@example.com and at http://www.bontadi.it
Want to know more about coffee and Bontadi? Read: BONTADI DAL 1790 UNA STORIA CHE CONTINUA – SINCE 1790 A STORY THAT CONTINUES by Rocco Cerona; published in both languages (Italian and American) in 2017 by La Grafica S.r.l Via Matteotti, 16, 38065 Mori (Trento) Tel. + 39 0464 910474 or email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.lagrafica.net – 92 pages hardbound b/w and color photographs with the history of coffee in general and a brief history of Bontadi.
LA CAFFETTERIA BONTADI SINCE 1790
Piazza C. Battisti 14, 38068 ROVERETO (TRENTO) – Tel. + 39 0464 871110 – accessible at email@example.com
CAFFE’ BONTADI S.r.l. di Ferrian Ines
Via Paoli, 18 – 38068 ROVERETO (TRENTO) – Tel + 39 0464 43566