A chance visit to Brunetti Carlton off Lygon Street brought back fond memories of Bella Roma. It all happened after a satisfying lunch at Michelino's, with the decision of pastry and coffee at the famed Italian pasticceria of Melbourne.
Brunetti Carlton offers an wide selection of dainty and alluring mignon and dolci to please the eye. As I scanned the extensive display, my eyes rested on a light doughnut pastry filled with strega chantilly cream and coated in sugar - the Bigne di San Giuseppe of Roma.
This unassuming fried dough ball has an important place in the hearts of many Italians. It is a special pastry made across Italy in celebration of Mary's husband and the feast day of Saint Joseph on 19 March, which is also Father's Day. Legend says that Joseph sold bignè when he was unemployed as a carpenter. He made it with flour, milk, butter, egg and lemon rind, then deep fried until they puff, and served filled with cream and sprinkled with powdered sugar when cooled.
In Southern Italy, this pastry is known as Zeppole or sfinge di San Giuseppe with a denser dough. In Rome I came to know it as Bignè di San Giuseppe, fried cream puffs filled with custard or ricotta. The original Roman recipe had jam-filled centres.
As I cut into my pastry, I fondly remember the streets of Rome in March, filled with the air of sweet and savoury bigné and the sight of these puffy clouds filling every pastry shop. I had the choice of uno piccolo for EUR0.80 to EUR2.00 for grande. I wonder if they serve this in the Brunetti shop in Singapore.
Bignè are taken very seriously in Rome but unfortunately the taste at Brunetti Carlton didn't match with the memory. I had better hot jam doughnut at Queen Victoria Market. Perhaps it time to return to Italy for the actual Festa di San Giuseppe and sample bignè across Rome.