Directly across from the coffee bar, just inside of the Broadway entrance, the chocolate section at Eataly is a marvel: Foil-wrapped Italian chocolates climb the walls and overflow onto floor displays. The options are endless—and indecipherable.
Packages tout pictures of oranges and hazelnuts, and come in all different shapes, with words like “Gianduitotti” slapped across the front in gold-leaf. I stuck to my list—a mix of recommended and popular Italian chocolates—picking out a box from Piedmont, a bag from Benevento. By the time I left the store—two hours later—I had five bags of carefully chosen chocolates and $75 fewer dollars.
From the outside, all these candies look exactly the same (each is wrapped in foil and most feature a picture of a hazelnut), but if you know what to look for, you'll find that each chocolate comes with its own rich history and flavor.
So don't miss out on the candies that are hidden behind that foil. Here's our guide to 5 popular Italian chocolates available in the United States:
Perugina isn’t the tiny chocolate factory it once when it opened in 1907. In fact, its chocolate aren't even made in Italy anymore: In 1988, Nestlé bought the family-run shop and most of the chocolates are now made in Edison, New Jersey (look closely at the “Distributed in the USA” line on the packaging). No wonder they’re among the easiest “Italian chocolates” to find in the United States.
But for hopeless romantics, there’s still something undeniably sweet about Baci, which mean “kisses” in Italian. Hidden in the foil of each truffle is a love note (in four different languages—Baci is sold 75 countries!)—a touch that, as the story goes, the co-founder Luisa Spagnoli added when he was overcome with passion for a special someone. As my own Baci informed me, “Love is a rebellious bird that nobody can tame.”
What to expect: Baci, which come in dark, white, and (as of 2015) milk chocolate, have gianduja (a chocolate-hazelnut paste, like Nutella) and chopped hazelnut filling. Each candy is dotted with a whole hazelnut, then covered in chocolate. They’re incredibly rich and very hazelnutty, with a crunchy texture from the chopped nuts.
In 1826, a businessman, Pier Paul Caffarel, purchased a tannery in Turin, Italy. With the help of an industrial chocolate-making machine, he transformed it into a factory that produced, at the time, record-breaking amounts of chocolate. His greatest contribution was the invention of gianduja, a mixture of cocoa, sugar, and hazelnuts. Sound familiar? It's the base of what’s now marketed as “Nutella,” or as it was originally called “Pasta Gianduja.”
In 1852, Caffarel introduced a chocolate he called a “Givu,” meaning “stub” in Piedmontese dialect. The chocolate, inspired by Gianduja, replaces some of the cacao in the chocolate mix with hazelnuts. Today, that chocolate is called Gianduiotto and is considered to be a Turin specialty. And while Caffarel still produces their chocolate in Italy, it's now owned by the Swiss chocolate company Lindt, making it widely available.
What to expect: Gianduiotto, available in both milk and dark chocolate, tastes like a solid version of gianduja. It's very soft and creamy and melts quickly—eat it in two bites, at most!
Novi is owned by the same company that produces Dufour and Elah candies (the Novi-Elah-Dufour group), the largest chocolate company in Italy. Like smaller producers in the Piedmont region, most of Novi’s products include some sort of hazelnut mixture, but they are generally less expensive and lower quality than the smaller houses.
What to expect: In the small, square-shaped Cuadro Classico chocolates, a hazelnut spread is sandwiched between two layers of chocolate. Unlike some of the more expensive chocolates, this one is the same consistency throughout—there are no chopped hazelnuts, and it’s difficult to differentiate the flavor of the chocolate from the hazelnut. It’s similar to chocolate in the same way Tootsie Rolls are—delicious, but not quite the same as the real thing.
Founded in Turin a few decades after Caffarel came out with their signature Gianduiotti chocolate, Baratti & Milano opened as a café in 1858. In 1911, the café expanded and began offering candies and chocolates, including Gianduiotti. Their impressive restaurant still exists in Turin, though they are now owned by the Novi-Elah-Dufour group.
What to expect: Like the Gianduiotto produced by Caffarel, it’s a solid, hazelnut-flavored chocolate in the shape of an overturned canoe. It’s extremely rich and creamy, and the hazelnut flavor is very strong.
A family-owned company for over 150 years, you may know Alberti from the liqueur they produce, Strega. Meaning "witch," Strega gets its name from its origin city, Benevento. As the story goes, Italian witches have used Benevento as a gathering place since the 13th century. The strong mint and fennel liqueur is used in many of its chocolates, including its signature Magie Strega.
What to expect: The 80-proof Strega liqueur is the strongest flavor in these domed, yellow foil-wrapped chocolates, with the fennel and mint featuring prominently. When mixed with the chocolate, it tastes almost like eggnog. Don't believe us? You might want to pick up a bag—for testing reasons, of course.
What's your favorite type of Italian chocolates? Tell us in the comments below!