When I told everyone I was moving to New Haven, I got fair warning about the great pizza rivalry in this city. (For the record, in the Sally’s vs. Pepe’s debate, I am firmly in the Pepe’s camp.) But no one told me this town had dueling Italian bakeries, too.
Beyond assorted dry, neon-colored cookies (sometimes salvaged by a dunk in chocolate or a smear of jam) and maybe the odd cannoli, I had no experience with Italian pastry. But this weekend, we got a big box of cookies and pastries from Lucibello’s. Without setting foot in Libby’s, the rival shop, I know there are a few sweet treats that will forever be in my life from now on, no matter where they’re from:
Cuccidati. These little cookies are like homemade Fig Newtons, except way better and without creepy additives. Sometimes they have a little dab of icing and a few sprinkles on top which, I’m not gonna lie, increases their appeal even though I am 24 (and a half!).
Pignoli Cookies. Moist, chewy golden crescents. These cookies are made with almond paste and studded with fresh pine nuts—rich, nutty, and lightly sweet.
Good Cannoli. Accept no soggy, super-sweet imitations. Good cannoli have a crisp shell and smooth, creamy ricotta filling—chocolate chips not necessary, but strongly encouraged.
Sfogliatelle. (Pronounced, I am told, sfoy-dell) These clamshell-shaped pastries are the most interesting I’ve encountered, though perhaps not my favorite at first. But I have to say they’re growing on me. What’s not to like about layers of flaky pastry filled with barely-sweetened and spiced ricotta and candied citrus?
Pasticiotti. My hands-down, no-contest, absolute, can’t-stop-eating favorite. Pleasantly soft, slightly dense pastry filled with your choice of chocolate or vanilla pastry cream and dusted with powdered sugar. Simple. Delicious.
Having not given Libby’s a fair shot, I can’t come down on either side just yet. I suspect, however, that Lucibello’s pastries are top-notch precisely because they are in a constant, generations-long duel. (Also, part of me is hoping to uncover some tale of forbidden love between a Lucibello and a Libby…what’s with Italians and star-crossed love?) But, the bottom line is, when bakeries compete, everyone wins.