Peter LaRose behind the display cases at his family bakery, where one is reserved just for biscotti. Below, a box of hard, fresh biscotti. (Photo above by Jim Willis; below by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By SUSAN ERICSON
Is it possible that a centuries-old Roman recipe still holds pride of place on many tables today?
The Italian cookie, biscotto – ‘biscotti‘ is the plural version, and really, who can eat just one? – is just as popular today as it was when the Romans were marching across Europe.
La Rosa’s Pastry Shop and Bakery in Shrewsbury, PieHole‘s go-to place for biscotti, has been baking these tasty, dunkable, treats for years, satisfying our yen for a grown-up’s cookie. With sweet aromas wafting from its ovens, the retro neon lights and the shiny cases filled with mouthwatering pastries, La Rosa’s serves up a magical sensory mix that gets little noses pressed up against the glass, too.
Brothers Peter and Sal La Rosa, owners of keep the tradition of their family business going, having grown up watching and working with their grandfather and father. General manager Kathy Martin said the bakery has been operating for 25 years at its Newman Springs Road location.
“My father and grandfather made the biscotti, and it became a trend to add other ingredients into them,” Peter La Rosa explained. “The original, real, biscotti are the anisette or Neapolitan. They were what we made. They were the twice-baked variety,” baked as a loaf the first time, then sliced and baked a second time.
The biscotti are still made in the back of the bakery in the same way, with the addition of new flavors. La Rosa’s offers around a dozen options on any given day: chocolate, hazelnut, chocolate with hazelnuts, lemon, cherry vanilla, cashew nut and chocolate chunk, to name just a few.
The perfect accompaniment to your beverage of choice, biscotti stay fresh for weeks if stored in a tight, lidded jar, and at $11.99 a pound are one of the better values in the Red Bank area. Called cantuccini, or coffee bread, in Italy, these crunchy morsels are meant to be dipped in tea or coffee. A well-baked biscotto should hold its shape after dunking.
The original recipe – flour, sugar, eggs and flavorings – did not use yeast or fat, yielding a twice-baked product that would stay edible on long journeys, according to food historians.
“People stop in here on their way home from work to get a few biscotti. They leave with a bag and eat them in their cars on their ride home,” Martin said. A cookie tin of biscotti, butter cookies, or a mixture of the two can be ordered on line for $32.50 plus shipping. “These are very popular,” Martin said, adding, “you should come back and talk to us about our cannoli too. They are a holiday best seller.”
Order an espresso or coffee and refuel with a few biscotti at one of the tables inside La Rosa’s, or refill a cookie jar at home with a pound or two. There is a reason they’ve been around for centuries.