A great variety of different types of amaretti and the smaller amerettini, can be found in Italy, from the tiny, hard cookies to the large and succulent macaroons with their rounded tops. An expresso ordered in a northern Italian bar with usually arrive accompanied by cookie of this kind, a special pleasure if it is one of the original Amaretti di Saronno. Amaretti from the town of Mombaruzzo in Piedmont are another type considered to be particularly delicious. They are wrapped by hand in coloured paper, like pieces of candy.
The history of amaretti stretches back to the end of the 18th century, to the time when coffeehouses were becoming increasingly popular, and were often meetings places for men of ideas – the scene of lively debate between artists, scholars, and the proponents of various contemporary political causes. Some of the coffeehouses in Milan belonged to the Lazzaroni family. Carlo Lazzaroni (1774-1835), founder of the Amaretti di Saronno dynasty, gradually bought up bakeries in his home town of Saronno, which had been making almond macaroons for generations, and began to sell their products in his coffeehouses in Milan. His son, Davide (1808-1879), decided to abandon using the small bakeries for production, and built the first cookie factor in the name of Lazzaroni. Here, he manufactured not only the family’s established product, amaretti, but also cookies made with an egg-enriched mixture, and panettone.
The succeeding generation, the brothers Giacinto, Ernesto, and Piero, founded the company of Davide Lazzaroni & C., but overreached themselves with the construction of a new factory. They were obliged to turn to their cousin, Luigi (1847-1933) to save them from bankruptcy. He was at the time already a successful manufacturer of liqueurs and candied fruits in Monza, so had the means to stage a rescue. Under Luigi’s management, the company of Lazzaroni grew into a solid presence in the Italian food industry. He even succeeded in beating back competition from British imports, then dominant in the cookie market. He extended the company’s range, and made attempts to expand exports into Europe north of the Alps. He had to battle against setbacks and disasters, including two factory fires (in 1898 and 1911) and the economic crisis of World War I.
Following Luigi’s death in 1933, he was succeeded by his two sons, Paolo and Mario. They too remained faithful to the family philosophy of making sure only the highest quality goods left the factory, and that the cookies must be packed and presented accordingly. This approach led the introduction of the beautifully designed tins of the 1920s and 1930s, which have become collectors’ items.
So, the next time you have an amaretti with your coffee, say a hearty ‘thank you’ to the wonderful Lazzaroni family.