eaders with blood sugar above alert levels, read no further. Rome abounds with artisan pastry shops and family-run bakeries that manage to keep the Sunday pastarella tradition alive in each custard-filled cannoncino, each rum-soaked pan di spagna cake base, each overflowing display window. Here is my shortlist of Rome’s best sweet tooth landmarks, divided into the most accessible categories I can think of.
BREAKFAST BEST BETS
Andreotti Everything at Andreotti’s counter is delicious, but locals come here for the typical Roman breakfast: a steaming cappuccino and a croissant. All pastries is are handmade, including biscotti, cakes, gelato and the semifreddi. Via Ostiense, 54/B; tel. +39.06. 575.0773.
Cristalli di Zucchero Don’t be fooled by minute portion size or by often inefficient service (particularly on the weekend in the Circo Massimo offshoot of the Monteverde laboratorio). Be patient. These boutique pastry shrines are Rome’s latest sugar craze. They offer elegant packaging, an abundance of chocolate in the mignon pastries, exotic-named cakes, and Rome’s best pain au chocolat. Even the simple butter croissants are heavenly. Ladurée-worthy macarons, drool-worthy custard, apple and pistachio-filled pastries will send you (and your arteries) rocketing. Via di Val Tellina, 114 (Monteverde Nuovo), tel. +39 06.5823.0323 and Via di San Teodoro, 88 (Circo Massimo), tel. +39.06.6992.0945. Closed Tuesday.
Laboratorio Lambiase Fans flock here in droves for the ambiguously-named calorie bomb known as sorchetta doppio schizzo. The Laboratorio Lambiase also specializes in plain, marmalade and custard-filled croissants, krapfen (fried dough, filled with pastry cream), fried donuts, puff pastry elephant ears (called ventagli, or fans) and warm, chocolate studded rolls. Open until the wee hours. Via Cernaia, 47/A; tel. +39.06.494.1363
Romoli Among Rome’s most steadfast pastry shop and cafes, where generations have munched on stuffed fagottini, available all day long, or spent nights hunting down its custom-made croissants for classic midnight cornetto munchies (try the ones filled with white chocolate and pine nuts; or the custard, nutella and coconut-filled ones). Viale Eritrea, 140-142; tel. +39.06.8632.5077.
PASTICCERIE (and their specialties)
Pasticceria Cinque Lune The Anzuini family has been running this hole-in-the-wall for decades, catering sweets, panettoni, monumental sculpted cakes and traditional ancient Roman pastries to popes and politicians. Locals flock here on Sunday mornings after Mass, to pick up dessert – usually a tray of mignon éclairs, cannoli, miniature mont blancs and bite size strawberry tartlets. I’m often found here hovering over the feather light frappe during Carnival season. Corso Rinascimento, 89; tel. +39.06.6880.1005.
Il Forno del Ghetto Boccione (Rosa Limentani) The shrewd ladies behind the counter smile only when kids are around, dispensing nibbles of free pizza ebraica (a kosher confection loaded with candied fruits, nuts, honey, cinnamon and calories), toasted bruscolini caldi (pupkin seeds) and biscottini. Regulars ignore the attitude and the elbowing crowds to stand in line for the house specialty, the divine ricotta and visciole open-face tart (or the chocolate-studded version). Via del Portico d’Ottavia, 2; tel. +39.06.687.8637.
Pompi Think tiramisù and Pompi zaps to the frontal lobe. This San Giovanni pastry shop serves it in vats, chilling in humming freezers. Besides the traditional cacao-dusted and chocolate chip-strewn kind, Pompi also makes strawberry variation. If you’re sinning alone, you can buy a delightful single serving portion for €3. Via Albalonga, 7/B-11; tel. +39.06.700.0418 (now also near Ponte Milvio at Via Cassia, 8/B).
Dolci Desideri Pasticceria Cioccolateria In this Monteverde neighborhood café and choco-lover hangout, exotic cacao bean extract is forged into dark cacao-dusted sculptures made to look like rusty tools. Nanni Moretti is a regular customer. There’s no better guarantee for the house Sacher torte. Via A. G. Barrili, 60/66; tel. +39.06.589.7709.
Valzani Walking into this old Trastevere joint feels like crossing the threshold into another era. Everything is frozen in the Italian 1960s, from the decor to the Pignoccata, mostaccioli romani, pangiallo, panpepato, diavoletti (they’ve been making chili-spiced chocolate way before it became fashionable), and the house specialties: giant hand-decorated chocolate Easter eggs, trademark torta “Nanà,” and a Vienna-worthy Sacher Torte. Don’t forego Proust’s favorites, madeleines, or the chocolate tartufi, shortcrust barchette (boast), sospiri (sighs), and arlecchini (harlequins) pastries. Via del Moro, 37/B; tel. +39.06.580.3792.
Mondi In addition to a savory buffet, the Ponte Milvio bakery and pastry shop offers a vast assortment of desserts, pastries, cakes, puddings, biscotti, croissants, semifreddi and candy confections. The main attraction and house specialty is the addictive gelatini, bite-size ice cream cones that come in a variety of flavors and are dipped in chocolate and coated in chopped hazelnuts. Via Flaminia Vecchia, 488; tel. +39.06.333.6466.
Cavaletti Attention millefoglie-lovers: Cavalletti’s majestic “thousand leaves” has garnered praise from Salario residents and connoisseurs citywide. The historic pasticceria layers crisp sheets of buttery puff pastry with walls of thick zabaione, creating fortresses of ground hazelnut and dusting them with confectioner’s sugar toppings. Via Nemorense, 179-181; tel. +39.06.8632.481.
Marinari Since 1948, Parioli’s oldest and most revered pasticceria has churned out pedigreed mont blancs, pillowy profiteroles, Sachers and berry-strewn Mimosa cakes (and during the holiday seasons, artisan panettone and pandoro). The gelateria is open until 2 a.m. Cars are triple-parked outside for good reason. Corso Trieste, 95/B; tel. +39.06.854.3257.
Palmieri Laboratorio Palmieri is hard to find unless the bakery is cranking out sweet creations, in which case perfume wafts out from the courtyard where it’s located. The Prati establishment, which opened in 1967, is the birthplace of some of Rome’s best desserts, including wonderful strudels, biscotti, assorted bigné and crostate (marmalade tarts). The Neapolitan descent of the Palmieri family graces Romans with additional treats such as sfogliatelle, babà, chocolate and pear cake, and pastiera – an Easter pie made with wheat grains, ricotta, candied citron and orange-fragranced water. Via Silla, 3; tel. +39.06.3973.7199/06.3973.7201.
Confetteria Moriondo & Gariglio This is the oldest chocolate boutique in Rome. In 1850, Carlo Enrico Cuniberti was appointed Maître Chocolatier to the House of Savoy, and his recipes have been handed down for generations thanks to partners Moriondo e Gariglio, two Piedmont expats with a penchant for the cacao bean. The best chocolates are little dark squares embedded with crackly nougat. Or the delicate Menta Milano, mint fondants dipped in dark chocolate. Don’t overlook the house Marrons Glacés, an Italian forte and Moriondo e Gariglio specialty. These candied chestnuts are moist and supple, each one a perfect bite of woodsy chestnut preserved in a barely sweet syrup, and topped with a crystallized violet. These marrons will spoil you. After you try them nothing else will do. Via del Piè di Marmo, 21-22; tel. +39.06.699.0856 (closed in August).
Gay-Odin In the Rome branch of the Art Nouveau Gay-Odin chocolatier, chocoholics can replicate the foodgasm sensations provided by the Naples original. Trademark products include scorze-candied orange peels; nudi (naked) unwrapped praline marbles, and Foresta, a flaky bar of rich milk chocolate that resembles gnarled tree bark. The assortment of other chocolate shapes and variations include tarallini, donut-shaped and filled with Strega liquer; noci, walnut cream enclosed in a wafer-like casing; and ostriche, oyster shaped bonbons filled with mousse. While gloved employees assemble your box, you get a complimentary cup of dark and spoon-dense hot chocolate. Via Stoppani, 9; tel. +39.06.8069.3023.
La Bottega del Cioccolato Historically spun off from Moriondo e Gariglio’s workshop in the early 1900s, la Bottega’s plush salon still attracts hordes who want to see the sculpted chocolate Coliseum, the drool-worthy brasiliani (coconut and caffè-flavored chocolates), or just take in the posh fin-de-siecle atmosphere. Via Leonina, 82/Via del Vantaggio, 22/a; tel. +39.06.482.1473.
SAID This ancient chocolate manufacturer, founded in 1923, was severely damaged during the July 1943 Allied bombings of San Lorenzo. It was recently restored to house a museum dedicated to the empress of sweet delights. Visitors can watch the still-functioning old school chocolate machinery, the steel tabletop used to cool the molten caramel, the heating tunnel used for the molds. The library includes a to-die-for confectioner’s store and a drawing room where visitors can read, attend classes, and taste a cup of Brazilian chocolate with organic whipped cream. Many also come to enjoy slices of pizza Bianca stuffed with a bar of dark chocolate, or to nibble on pralines with a soft ricotta filling in the B-SAID restaurant. Finish your the meal with a SAID chocolate sampler and a complimentary nip of rare cacao liqueur. SAID Società Azionaria Industria Dolciaria, Via Tiburtina, 135; tel. +39.06.446.8210.
Biscottificio Artigiano Innocenti Choosing one biscotto over another is frustrating in this Trastevere bakery. I come here for the fave dei morti (beans of the dead): small irregular bean-shaped biscuits that Italians eat on Nov. 2 to honor the dead. I always bring home the house specialty, the nutty brutti ma buoni (ugly but good). Via della Luce, 21/a; tel. +39.06.580.3926.
Il Mondo di Laura The intensely cacao-flavored pepite nuggets get a pinch of pink Himalayan salt, the oatmeal and honey Raggi di Sole are studded with raisins and coated in sesame seeds, and the crackled-top Miss Cioccolatissima is an ode to dark chocolate, almonds and coffee. Other ingredients mixed into the cookie dough include green tea, maple syrup, vanilla from Madagascar and cinnamon. Laura’s Kosher/Parvé creations are dairy-free and without animal fat. Via Tiburtina, 263; tel. 06.588.0966.
La Dolceroma I come here for a cheesecake and pecan pie fix, but many wander in attracted by the sweet baking smells of the dobostorte, the rich apple pie, or the Sacher Torte. Carrot cake and pumpkin pie are also favorites (October and November only). Other specialties include yogurt and berry cake, traditional Viennese pastries and pies, and all sorts of muffins and cookies. Via del Portico d’Ottavia, 20/B; tel. +39.06.689.2196.
Sweety Rome No preservatives, jelling agents, artificial flavors, or half-processed bases in any of these confections. Noon to 3.30 p.m. on Sunday is brunch-time, with an all-you-can-eat buffet (€18) that includes American coffee or espresso, juice or halved grapefruit, excellent pancakes, French toast, waffles, and other breakfast musts. On weekdays I munch on mini-strudels and the house carrot cake, probably the best in Rome. Sweety also produces beautiful to-order layered wedding cakes and assorted cupcakes, with the vanilla and lemon ones standing high above the rest. Via Milano, 48; tel. +39.06.4891.3713.
Cake and the City The red velvet cupcakes are not stellar – with a cream cheese frosting that definitely needs refreshing – but the scones, gingerbread and bite-size cheesecakes are very tasty. There’s also a good selection of shortbread cookies with pastel icing, small carrot cakes for office celebrations. The delightful lemon meringue and tiramisu cupcakes are definitely worth the struggle for a nearby parking spot. Via Orazio, 15; tel. +39.06.323.2607.
The Perfect Bun | Bakery Grocery and Deli On the ashes of Josephine’s Bakery (the first in Rome to offer cupcakes and sculpted wedding cakes) rises The Perfect Bun and its pastry incarnations. The Teatro Valle joint, high on all-American burgers and nachos, now delivers a flurry of frosting-laced creations, bagels and freshly brewed caffè Americano. There are also carrot cake confections and some very interesting brownies. Piazza del Paradiso, 56; tel. +39.06.4549.2925.