27 Oct 2017

The history and the origin of the sfogliatella

By Simona Vitagliano

Tra Amalfi e Positano,mmiez’e sciure
nce steva nu convent’e clausura.
Madre Clotilde, suora cuciniera
pregava d’a matina fin’a sera;
ma quanno propio lle veneva‘a voglia
priparava doie strat’e pasta sfoglia.
Uno ‘o metteva ncoppa,e l’ato a sotta,
e po’ lle mbuttunava c’a ricotta,
cu ll’ove, c’a vaniglia e ch’e scurzette.
Eh, tutta chesta robba nce mettette!
Stu dolce era na’ cosa favolosa:
o mettetteno nomme santarosa,
e ‘o vennettene a tutte’e cuntadine
ca zappavan’a terra llà  vicine.
A gente ne parlava, e chiane chiane
giungett’e’ recchie d’e napulitane.
Pintauro, ca faceva ‘o cantiniere,
p’ammore sujo fernette pasticciere.
A Toledo  nascette ‘a sfogliatella:
senz’amarena era chiù bona e bella!
‘E sfogliatelle frolle, o chelle ricce
da Attanasio, Pintauro o Caflisce,
addò t’e magne, fanno arrecrià .
So’  sempe na delizia, na bontà !


If we wanted to tell the story of the sfogliatella would be enough these famous verses to make it almost musical to our ears.

But the Neapolitan is a full-fledged language (among other things, UNESCO heritage) and, as such, it is not known by all; we are going, therefore, to make this little virtual journey in the traditional way.

The origins

We are between Furore and Conca dei Marini, on the Amalfi Coast, about 4 centuries ago (in the 1600s), precisely in the convent of Santa Rosa, inhabited by cloistered nuns who, by definition, had to keep busy to avoid, as much as possible, contacts with the outside. For this reason they cultivated the land, cooked bread, and invented recipes even if, indeed, the menus were usually always very similar to each other.

One day, however, something happened that would have been the spark for a change in the history of the convent, the coast and all of Naples; that same spark that would have created the right prerequisite for the birth of a new Neapolitan symbol.

That day one of the nuns (someone says mother superior), named Clotilde, noticed some leftovers of semolina soaked in milk. Of course it would have been a serious waste to throw it, so he worked in an instinctive culinary choice: he mixed it with ricotta cheese, dried fruit and lemon liqueur (which today we would call limoncello) and fired it, after making it filled with a dough, stretched with wine white and lard, two sheets closed to remember the shape of a monk’s hood: the Santarosa was born.

In fact, the dessert was not only successful among the other sisters but began to be offered to the people, in exchange for some coins, for which it was necessary to give them a name and chose the one of the monastery where it was created.

To get to Naples, however, this delicacy took a good 200 years.

In 1818, in ways still to be clarified, the one who at the time was still an innkeeper, Pasquale Pintauro, came into contact with this delight that literally shocked him.

He decided, therefore, to revisit the recipe, turning his tavern into Via Toledo in a confectionery workshop and becoming, himself, pastry chef.

The version revisited by Pintauro

Pintauro eliminated the cream and the sour cherries from the filling and thinned the pastry, depriving it of that call to the monk’s hat: that’s how the sfogliatella was born!
Other versions less “official” of the story, however, that may have been the same nuns to revisit the size of the pastry sheets, creating, closing everything to cover the filling, that form of shell that is so familiar to us, in the case of short version.

The sfogliatella today

Today the Pintauro shop, with its old but new management, is always there, ready to delight passersby with its fragrant sfogliatelle but, over the centuries, this cake has become so famous that it has taken the form of a real its symbol for Naples and its inhabitants and there is no bar, pastry shop, laboratory that does not sell it to the public.

Available in the riccia and in the short version (in some places, especially in the coastal area, you can still taste the ancient Santarosa), ‘a sfugliatell’ is ready to give intense emotions to the Neapolitans and tourists, already through its scent, which fills the streets and alleys of the city … and those who find themselves wandering near the Gambrinus know something about it!