La Bottega on New North Road opened just before Christmas. (La Bottega means “The shop of a master artist.”) Owned and run by Davide Lovison, an experienced hospitality manager from Padua (Padova, Italy), La Bottega serves genuine pastry and yeasted treats from all over Italy, as well as a range of Tuscan bread. These are created using specialist, imported Italian ingredients such as flours, nut pastes (almond, hazelnut, pistachio), gorgeous Italian cheeses and pancetta.
The chef is an experienced pastry and breadmaker – Andrea Catassi, from Lucca (Tuscany) – who speaks only Italian, and was brought to New Zealand by Davide. “I needed to find someone who would try out the differences in New Zealand yeasts and water, and match and balance it with the Italian ingredients. I knew Andrea was just the person. He played with the ingredients here to get them right. He is a master with yeast after more than 30 years’ experience.”
“When we opened, the first morning someone came in and asked if we had pies. After that, I thought long and hard about whether we should offer kiwi food too – something that wasn’t Italian. In the end, I decided to be true to myself and the vision of what I set out to do: to own a true Italian bakery in New Zealand.
“Now, I’m very proud that people can buy exactly the same, high quality pastries and breads as we have in Italy. It is a genuine taste of Italy in Kingsland.”
The bakery serves coffees and drinks, and also produces festive food. At Easter, it sold out of a small run of Colomba Pasquale (“Easter Dove”) which is traditionally shaped as a dove (although La Bottega shaped it differently) – is a very popular Italian Easter cake, and just as appreciated in Italy as panettone which is eaten at Christmas. The cake is sweet, contains candied orange and lemon peel, and is glazed with crystallised sugar and unpeeled almonds. It is often given as gift to friends and family.
Other examples of La Bottega’s delicious food include:
Valdostana (from the Val d’Aosta region in Italy). In this mountainous area in Northern Italy near Mont Blanc on the French border, Hannibal marched his armies around 200AD. Valdostana is a hearty, easy to eat take on a ham and cheese sandwich. It’s made with scrumptious buttery flakey pastry, pancetta and mozzarella. The pancetta is dry cured and can be eaten ‘raw’.
Pane Toscano: Tuscan bread. La Bottega does many types of yeasted Tuscan bread. It is saltless and strong – “traditionally, you use it to clean up the pasta sauce on your plate,” says Davide, with satisfaction. Made from Italian flours, the Tuscan bread includes grainy bread, genuine ciabattas and focaccias. It is proven and risen naturally, on the premises with no premixes used. “We have the traditions, we create the products,” says Davide.
Sfoglie (pronounced: sfol-ye): The verb of this word means ‘to flick the pages of a book’. The luscious pastry treat is layered like the leaves of a book. It’s from Tuscany and very difficult to make. Andrea is a master of it. The New Zealand version of this Italian treat has apples and custard filling it.
Cornetti: This is like an Italian croissant. “Who invented it first?”, asks Davide, which is the perennial Italian challenge for many ‘French’ pastry treats. The Italian version is of pastry but lighter and not as greasy as a croissant. It has an egg yolk and less butter in the dough.
Bomboloni: (“Little bomb”) Davide says these are eaten everywhere in the morning in Italy. They’re sweet, yeasted, light Italian donuts, shaped like a ball. Deliciously flavourful, they’re often filled with cream and apricot jam.
Tortelletti: These are gluten free, made like shortbread from rice flour. They’re baked and filled with jam, as a light, sweet biscuit. Delectable.
Cannoli: (“Little tube”) Shaped like a cigar, and made of light puff pastry, these are a salute to Sicily and the TV series “The Sopranos” where they are sometimes eaten. This Sicilian cannoli is filled with sweetened ricotta, candied peel and chocolate chips and is made from scratch at La Bottega. A second type is filled with zabaglione complemented with a dash of Marsala from Sicily (a sweet sometimes fortified wine) which completes the subtle, moreish flavour.
Bigne: (Pron: Been-ye) A yummy Italian take on profiteroles. These irresistible round pastries are filled with custards flavoured by natural nut pastes imported from Italy (hazelnut, pistachio). “We also do zabaglione and chocolate versions,” says Davide. “They are a knockout.”
Other mouth watering offerings from La Bottega include: Baba Rum (Davide’s favourite); Tartine di Frutta (adorable fruit tarts); Lemon Tarte (heavenly little Lemon and soft Italian meringue tarts) and much, much more.
Davide says that all products have natural and fresh ingredients, with no preservatives or colourings: “That’s a feature of Italian cooking – we love fresh, pure food”.