I’m a fugitive now. I packed up my bags and crowded into a car with three gal pals, a cat and a dog named Barolo. And now the only thing on my agenda is finding the best chocolate confection as I start my hideaway in a seaside town far away from home.
Escaping the looming presence of zona rossa, Shiho, Haven, Giorgia and I decided to break the rules a little. What can I say? That’s what happens to four level-headed girls who have been trapped in a small town eating plin and drinking nebbiolo for far too long.
Minutes away from the Ligurian coast in Loano and just a half hour from one of the most romantic beachside towns in Italy is Alassio which is famous for their Baci di Alassio. But before there was the chocolate version that I (along with my girl crew) have come to love, there was baci di dama.
Translating roughly to the lady’s kisses, baci di dama cookies are a Piemontese specialty consisting of two hazelnut cookies joined together in a chocolate kiss. Legend has it that the cookies were created after King Vittorio Emanuele II requested his chef to whip up an innovative dessert. These cookies also managed to make an appearance in a Tortona pastry shop not long after. Beloved by many, the hazelnut baci even won first place at Milan’s International Fair in 1906.
Flashforward a few years and a similar recipe was created on the Ligurian coast in a town called Alassio. Patented by pastry chef to the King of Italy, Rinaldo Balzola, the cookies are a chocolatey reinterpretation of baci di dama. Originally made for the King of Italy in the late 19th century and then sold exclusively at their pastry shop Caffè Pasticceria Balzola, the cookies are made with two chocolate hazelnut cookies held together by a rich ganache centre.
Though Baci di Alassio obtained DOP status in 2006, there are still towns nearby with their own variations. I can confirm that after tasting baci in Alassio, Loano, and Ceriale, the best and fudgiest can be found at Bar Pasticceria Bacicin in Ceriale.
At a glance, I probably wouldn’t think anything special of this bar. With some sweet confections, nothing truly screams out to passersby, however, we had some insider information from a local Ligurian who brought these tasty cookies to Bra weeks back. I was hooked and decided to make this our mission in Liguria: find the best baci!
Though taste is a purely subjective thing, sometimes you just eat something that makes so much sense that it would be deemed amazing by anyone, and in fact the Baci di Ceriale have just that effect. While some other hazelnut chocolate cookies were too nutty or too dry, those of Pasticceria Bacicin are a fudgy rendition that seem to melt in your mouth.
Of course the ganache kiss between the two cookies is no joke either. Like falling into a lazy river made of extra dark chocolate, the ganache only heightens the chocolate coma. In a bite that reflects my two favourite things—brownies and Italy—these specific Baci di Ceriale are the ultimate bacio simply due to their gooey richness that somehow still embodied the class and elegance of Italian cookies since there is still a sort of amaretto inflection in the batter.
Though I could continue on, I think it’s best if you just pick some up the next time you find yourself on the Ligurian coast. Trust me, beyond the beaches and the wineries, you need baci. What would an Italian vacation be without a few stolen kisses?
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