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We Found Cookie Heaven in a Former Convent

28 November 2023
by Regan Hofmann
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How Lazzaroni Makes Italy’s Most Historic Cookies

Giada’s love of amaretti is no secret—not only are the crispy, almond-scented little cookies her sweet of choice to accompany an afternoon espresso, they’re also the secret ingredient in her chocolate amaretti cake recipe! Nostalgically wrapped in colorful twists of tissue paper and sparkling with pearl sugar, these cookies are a classic taste of home, packed in the most gorgeous tins that become storage keepsakes for every Italian family.

Amaretti cookies

That iconic taste, the packaging—it’s all thanks to one family, the Lazzaronis, who have been stewards of the amaretti tradition in Italy since the 18th century. The cookie was invented in Saronno, in the northern region of Lombardy, by a young couple named Giuseppe and Osolina. As the story goes, the cardinal of Milano made a surprise visit to their town, and they scrambled to make something to honor his visit. They had very little in the cupboard, but came up with a simple combination of sugar, egg whites, and almond-scented apricot kernels from the orchard outside their house, and wrapped them in pairs in colorful twists to symbolize their love for each other. The cardinal was so pleased by the new cookies, he blessed their union and the cookies became a local sensation.

After selling their amaretti locally in Saronno for more than 150 years, the Lazzaroni family needed an innovation to help them keep up with demand for their crispy little cookies. After finding inspiration on a trip to England, where biscuits were a vibrant local industry, the Lazzaroni patriarch imported several cookie-making machines and English workers to set them up at home in 1888, becoming the first company in Italy to produce cookies for commercial sale.

With so many centuries of history, it’s no surprise that they keep an impressive archive. In the company’s headquarters, the former cloisters of the 14th-century church of San Pietro, a museum displays generations of hand-decorated cookie tins, posters, and—most excitingly—hand-written records of the company’s prized recipes. On a recent visit to the namesake Chiostro di Saronno, Giada made an amazing discovery: Her grandfather purchased amaretti from the same family some 40 years ago to sell at his own Italian food shop!

Giada in the Lazzaroni archives

In honor of that special connection and the generations of artistry that keep the Lazzaroni family’s amaretti so delectable, we worked with them to craft an exclusive cookie tin for this holiday season. It contains a hand-picked assortment of some of the harder-to-find varieties we fell in love with in Saronno, including Giada’s favorite: chocolate-covered amaretti. The tin is inspired by 1900s Art Nouveau designs we found in the archive, ready to become a beloved part of your own family tradition.

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