Frutta Martorana – Marzipan and other Sicilian Pastry Porn

October 3rd, 2007 · Tags: Behind the Scenes · Discovering Food · Food · Italy · Sicily

Update: We really didn’t plan this…Shelley from At Home in Rome is talking about Sicilian-Swiss pastries (and frutta martorana) today on her blog, too!

After I stopped salivating over the Setteveli cake at the Pasticceria Cappello, I noticed that they indeed sold other things in the pasticceria other than the setteveli. Many, many, salivation-worthy creations.

Chocolate meringue cake

Gelo di Melone – Anguria – Cocomero, Gelu di muluni (dialect)….many names to call what is Watermelon Gelatin, served mainly during the summer when the melon is in season.

Gela di Melone cups

Lovely pistachio crumbled on top. Pistachio and watermelon together? Da provare! Something to try immediately!

Gela di Melone pie

This a fruit tart I’m sure my mother would have enjoyed.

Fruit tart

The most impressive display of craftmanship was in the frutta martorana display.

You may think you know marzipan. It’s a great big lump of sticky sweet almond goodness. You’ve probably never seen it like this. Not only beautiful, but edible!

Frutta martorana, the depiction of fruit using marzapane (marzipan) is traditionally Sicilian due to its initial use at the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, a monastery near Palermo which used these treats to decorate the bare trees of the convent when an important guest was visiting. These sweets were traditionally eaten on the occasion of Tutti i Santi, All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2), though they can be found year-round.

Marzipan in Italy is reputed to have less sugar to almonds than in the States, and I tend to agree. Every time I ate marzipan before moving here, I didn’t enjoy it. Now, though I can’t eat much more than a piece or two, I enjoy the taste, and I especially admire the craftsmanship and time it went into preparing each piece. If you’ve sworn off marzipan, as you think you know it, be sure and try the Italian version if you come to Italy.

Frutta martorana display

Luscious strawberries straight from the field?

Frutta martorana, strawberry

This orange couldn’t look more real. I wonder how long it took them to make it. And the walnut look real, too!

Frutta martorana, Orange

Have you eaten frutta martorana before? Marzipan? Love it or leave it?

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24 Comments

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  • 1
    Shelley - At Home in Rome // Oct 3, 2007 at 9:30 am

    How we pull off these ESP posts without telling each other, I’ll never know! But for all my making fun of marzipan fruit on my blog today, I have to say that you are hands-down right when you say that “fruit” like what you captured in these photos is craftsmanship! I don’t think I’ve actually ever tried one, but maybe I’ll wait until I actually visit Sicily for the first time.

  • 2
    miriam // Oct 3, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    I love these photos of the Clementine and other fruits.
    Beautiful!!!!!

  • 3
    Farfallina... a roam to Rome // Oct 3, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Hehe…”pastry porn”, cute!

    Your pictures are simply amazing! Do such delights actually exist?! too pretty…

  • 4
    Piccola // Oct 3, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    YUM!! I have had marzipan in Sicily, Milan and Mexico and I loved every single one!! Your pics make me hungry for one. That’s what I will ask Ale to bring me on his next visit :)

  • 5
    Lisa // Oct 4, 2007 at 12:21 am

    Crazy mouthwatering goodness. Love the detail in your photos, btw.

  • 6
    KC // Oct 4, 2007 at 7:52 am

    And just when I though you had crossed the food porn line with the post on the sette veli cake. Have some mercy please, I’m drooling looking at those photos of the marzipan fruits. They’re the most artful ones I’ve ever seen- the mandarin is breathtaking!

  • 7
    nyc/caribbean ragazza // Oct 4, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    that “fruit” is so beautiful. so realistic looking.

  • 8
    Claire // Oct 4, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    I had marzipan for the first time in Sicily – after some confused English from the shopkeeper telling me the fruit was “real, not real – sugar”. There was something so bizzare about eating it – I could imagine the taste and texture of the real thing even on top of the marzipan flavor! Beautiful pictures, and thanks for the post.

  • 9
    Ms. Adventures in Italy // Oct 4, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    @Claire – oh shoot, I forgot to write about that. Pasta reale is actually ROYAL almond “paste” which can then be used to make the frutta or other things :) It sounds like “real” though – that’s probably what she was saying! Often they flavor the coatings.

  • 10
    Claire // Oct 4, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Hah! You just solved a life mystery for me. Thanks!

  • 11
    finnyknits // Oct 4, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    That orange and those strawberries are simply remarkable! If I’m ever in Sicily I will definitely have to try one out. I don’t have a feeling either way about marzipan here in the States, but I’d imagine less sugar would be better.

    Great, great photos as always.

  • 12
    Elisa // Oct 4, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    Ciao Sara, mi dispiace interrompere questa scorpacciata di ottimi dolci :)
    Se hai tempo e voglia di partecipare, ti ho invitata qui

    Ciao!

  • 13
    Jann // Oct 5, 2007 at 12:54 am

    Where in the world is this place? What gorgeous foods~my mouth is watering!

  • 14
    Maryann // Oct 5, 2007 at 2:33 am

    That orange is fantastic. What artwork! Neat post with great photos. Thanks :)

  • 15
    Ms. Adventures in Italy // Oct 5, 2007 at 5:09 am

    @Elisa – grazie per l’invito! Vado a leggerlo. :)
    @Jann – read my previous post, I have the address at the bottom. :)

  • 16
    jackie // Oct 5, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    wow. the marzipan is AMAZING–i’ve seen it pretty detailed before, but that orange is incredible. yum. i could eat the whole store :)!

  • 17
    Robert // Oct 9, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    If you like the almond confectionery of Sicily and the other interesting pastries you should try and get your hands on a book ‘Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood’ by Mary Taylor Simeti. It recounds the life of one Maria Grammatico who went into a convent as a child in the town of Erice (near Trapani) where she learned to make traditional Sicilian pastries (the sale of which was that convent’s primary source of income). Once she left the convent she opened her own pastry shop in Erice which is still going today. Worth a read.

  • 18
    Sarah // Oct 10, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Wow, I really thought that was a real orange. I think M.F.K. Fisher writes about these in her book Two Towns in Provence. I had tried to imagine them when reading, but didn’t really understand until now. I am totally amazed.

  • 19
    sue // Jan 16, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    My mother’s uncle used to make these when she (and later I) was a child for Christmas gifts. Sad to say, since it wasn’t like Amercian candies, I thought less of it. Oh to be able to go back in time and thank “Uncle Steve” for his thoughtfulness. He was well into his 70′s when he made them for me. He came from England, where his family had a village bakery in Tenterdon. He was a regrigeration specialist, so he must have learned the art of marizipan confectionary in the family bakery as a child.

    These looks simply amazing! You are so fortunate; and are wonderful to be sharing these adventures with us.

  • 20
    cheryl // Mar 12, 2008 at 2:48 am

    Loved your photos.
    Could you share with us the names of the towns and shops where you discovered these little gems?

  • 21
    Ms. Adventures in Italy // Mar 12, 2008 at 5:43 am

    @cheryl – I put the address in a previous post – check the top of this article, there’s a link to the post about this Pasticceria.

  • 22
    Joe Costa // May 3, 2009 at 4:46 am

    If you want to see or eat the very best Frutta Martorana, you must go to Messina; where you will also find the best gelato and granita as well as the famous Pigniolata .

  • 23
    William // Mar 30, 2010 at 12:08 am

    GREAT BLOG! please travel more so we can all enjoy your writing!

    Greets from the netherlands!

  • 24
    Rosie // Jun 25, 2010 at 12:11 am

    I have strong memories of living in Collesano, PA, as a small child, and regularly visiting Cefalu a few miles away. We would usually stop for my father to have coffee at a small shop on the edge of the main piazza and I can still picture the wall full of marzipan fruit baskets just like these.

    Recently, twenty years later, I looked up the cafe on Street View and you can still see some of the marzipan fruit in a case at the front of the shop.

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