I first met Frankie at last year’s San Gennaro Festival in Hollywood and I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I mean, this guy wanted me to dip biscotti in wine?? And not only that, but I could tell just by holding it that it wasn’t the hard, completely dry cookie I’ve come to know and dip in my coffee. It was soft! But then I tried it, wine and all, and realized…
…that it was one of the most amazing things ever! I took a bag home to my mom in Florida, a real biscotti connoisseur who has never been a big wine drinker, and she went crazy over them. Sure, you can eat them without dipping them in wine and they’re delicious, but the wine takes them over the edge. Dip the Anise & Vanilla in a sweet white like a Vin Santo or Moscato. Dip the chocolate in a rich, sweet red like a port or the Chocolate Wine from the San Antonio Winery (a local LA winery). Before you know it the bag – and the bottle! – will be gone!
That’s why when I found out Frankie and his business partner Harvey were opening a retail location a couple hours South of Los Angeles, I knew I had to go check it out.
It’s a little difficult to find so be sure to put it in your GPS, but once you pull up outside the storefront it’s pretty clear you’re in the right place.
Frankie’s bakery creates all sorts of treats in the traditions of Calabria, Italy. In fact, his family there sends him anise seeds across the ocean. He has a picture of his cousins in Fabrizia, Calabria, Italy behind the counter.
As soon as you walk into the shop, you drown in kitch. That kind of Old World Italian kitch that reminds you of your great-aunt’s house: ceramics of all shapes and sizes, stained glass, statues, silk flowers, Italian words and phrases speaking to you from the walls, themes of grapes and food and espresso everywhere you look. It’s great
Near the cash register, there’s a plaque on the wall explaining the history of biscotti. The “Christopher Columbus cookie” was originally created for travelers and soldiers on long journeys – it was so dry already from being double-baked, it couldn’t really go stale!
So why are Frankie’s biscotti soft? He and Harvey took be back into the bakery behind the storefront to clue me in on the secret.
Turns out, according to Frankie, biscotti in the Northern regions of Italy – like in Liguria, where Christopher Columbus was from – are as I’ve always known them to be: hard and dry. In the South, however, particularly in Calabria, biscotti are softer, not as crunchy. They’re still twice-baked (“bis” meaning twice and “cotto” meaning baked”), but the ingredients and baking style is slightly different so as to not dry them out completely.
Frankie at the mixer…
…and Harvey in front of the oven.
Frankie started with the classic “Black Anise Almond” flavor but quickly expanded to Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Limoncello, Orange Cranberry, Hazelnut Chocolate Almond, Tropical Paradise an over thirty other seasonal flavors. He’s also started to package small biscotti with messages from “Nonna” (think an Italian version of the Chinese fortune cookie), which he calls “Nonna Says”.
Pearls of wisdom from Nonna (Grandma) are written in both English and Italian, and highlight such grandmotherly advice like:
“You are better alone than in bad company”
“An egg today is better than a chicken tomorrow”
“In the small barrels you will find the good wine”
But let’s get to the (other) good stuff. The bakery counter.
Oh, did you think Frankie just made biscotti? You’d be very wrong!!
I had a little taste of everything (and was on a total sugar high the rest of the day) and had such a hard time picking a favorite! I loved the Baci di Dama, little chocolate sandwich cookies, but the gluten-free almond-coconut Sicilian Bombs might just win the prize! So soft and flavorful; who would’ve thought?? My grandmother used to make Italian wedding cookies, but Frankie upped the ante a bit. He puts a “surprise” inside that could be a cherry, could be a piece of chocolate… shhh! It’s a surprise!
Have I mentioned yet that Frankie’s Bakery has fresh baked bread, too? And trust me, this ain’t no grocery store bread. This is the real deal. They’ll also be introducing cold sandwiches “to-go” this month! Yum!
One of the coolest ideas I’ve seen in a while – at a bakery, at least – is their “Build-A-Jar” program. All of the ceramic cookie jars have a price tag on them that includes one pound of your choice of biscotti. How cool, right?! And what a great gift!
The “Fresh Milk and Cookies” one might’ve been my favorite (It was next to this weird looking chicken, but I’ve been in a few kitchens covered with chickens before so I’m sure there’s an audience. I still think its weird, though.)
I’d like to say a big “Thank you” to Frankie and Harvey for showing me around their bakery that day! If you’re anywhere near Cathedral City, CA (right by Palm Springs), definitely go and say hello and walk away with some awesome, authentic goodies. You can also order Frankie’s Old World Biscotti online by clicking HERE.
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