by Carmen Autuori
I close my eyes and imagine that he prepares the dessert buffet for “Agnesina Fragalà, father’s beautiful daughter”, the triumph of the Neapolitan pastry chef, which is magnificently described by Matilde Serao in his Maven in Naples. Yes why Girolamo Ginetti, born in 1935, belongs to the school of the late nineteenth century that dictated the rules of classical pastry throughout Campania and beyond. He is not talking to me about sfogliatelle, but about Croci di Lucca, their ancestors born in 1600 in the Neapolitan monastery of the same name, whose secret ingredient is a very fine almond mass that replaces the ricotta that came later. He tells me about fragrant cremolat with the fruits of Piana del Sele, of gateau de mariage (he does not call them just wedding cakes), of ancient single-serving sweets called Pompeian, while welcoming me with a perfect kiss on the hand. Don Girolamo is all this: a gentleman from other times.
We are in Eboli, a town in the center of Piana del Sele, where the patisserie Ginetti for more than a century it has been a reference point for those who love classic desserts made to perfection.
The story of these master confectioners, because they are a large family, begins in the 1920s, when Girolamo’s grandfather, a native Pagani, married an Ebolitan who, according to family tradition, had some knowledge of pastry. And so begins the adventure, which has almost groundbreaking connotations.
<< It all started in the 1920s, or maybe even earlier, when my grandparents, equipped with a cart, prepared on the occasion of the patron saint's party, San Vito, staples and granitas of pomegranate, coffee and lemon with "sobretta", a copper container immersed in a block of wood with ice and salt - says Don Girolamo-.
And then came the requests to prepare sweets for weddings and baptisms, which were celebrated on the plain and in the neighboring villages, especially those in the Upper Sele. At that time, these events were celebrated in the house, and in all the country estates there was an oven. Then my grandparents set off with their modest equipment and made mushroom cake filled with vanilla cream and nasprati with a fragrant icing, anise and milk biscuits. In short, what we could define as the country cake >>.
The years go by, the business goes well and the couple decides to open a small patisserie in Eboli. It’s the year of the twenties, the Sunday package at the end of the Mass becomes a real ritual.
The country pastry is transformed into an urban confectionery. The children, who have meanwhile learned the basics of the subject, are being sent out to specialize, and this is already evident from their entrepreneurial spirit. Girolamo specializes inPantaleone antique patisserie in Salerno, Matteo, the father of our Girolamo, in the production of ice cream, while Francesco, in Naples, specializes in the processing of chocolate. In the late 30s turning point: the prince arrives in Eboli Umberto of Savoy and stops at Gran Caffè Principe di Piemontethe elegant restaurant overlooking the main square owned by the Ginetti family.
On that occasion, Girolamo is awarded the title of commentator, while Matteo with the title of Knight of the Work of the Prince himself, who is offered a special dessert created for him, Pompeiana. It is an ice cream, garnished with a piece of mushroom cake soaked in coffee and served in a metal cup slightly smaller than a cappuccino cup.
With this glorious story behind him, Girolamo Ginetti could not help but step back in the family’s footsteps. In fact, at the age of thirteen, he straps on his apron and begins kneading.
<< Jeg kan huske, at de satte mig til at vende cremen og vaske gryderne - siger han -. Dengang var der ingen planetmaskiner, alt foregik i hånden med enorme piske. Jo ældre jeg blev, jo mere gav de mig ansvarlige jobs, inklusive baba-dej. Den styrke, jeg lagde i arbejdet, var sådan, at jeg ofte beskadigede marmorbordene. Men baba var (og er) min passion så meget, at jeg bad om at tage til Napoli for at specialisere mig på Scaturchio, på det tidspunkt et slags universitet for os unge konditorer fra provinsen. Jeg blev der to år før jeg vendte tilbage til Eboli >>.
And then with all the credentials, the emergence of Girolamo begins. Vans full of sweets drive around the entire province, especially for weddings. The stepped gateau de mariage, elegantly decorated with swirls of white icing, is the dream of Ebolitan brides and neighbors. The nuns’ breasts, pasticciotti, spumone, almond paste and Venetian cake (mushroom cake, coffee almond cream and classic almond cream) are the workhorses of the Ginetti patisserie.
At a certain point, just in the seventies, a very special dessert appears in the window, the Primavera cake, which in a very short time becomes the most sought-after product of pastry.
<< En dag blev jeg bedt om en kage til en fødselsdag, jeg havde ikke en svampekagebund, til gengæld mangler babà aldrig her. Jeg tænkte på at bruge dem som erstatning, omsluttede det hele i to skiver butterdej, og jeg valgte et fyld af vanillecreme blandet med den klassiske smørcreme - forklarer Don Girolamo med et fladt udtryk af stolthed -. Succesen med denne kage ligger frem for alt i cremen, vi bruger ikke mel men risstivelse. Sikkert meget dyrere, men godt wienerbrød er lavet af to væsentlige elementer: råmaterialet af fremragende kvalitet og manuelle færdigheder. Mekaniseringsprocessen har givet os store fordele, især i form af besparelser i behandlingstider, men maskinen skal styres, det er ekspertøjet, der fortæller om dejen er spændt, om den skal have mere smør eller flere æg. . Konditoren er ikke den, der læser opskrifterne, men den, der har tilegnet sig manuelle færdigheder i årenes løb, startende fra rodedåsen, som oversat betyder at vaske gryder og arbejde med albuefedt >>.
In addition to the Primavera cake at Ginetti, there is another dessert that is even more niche and often replaces the classic wedding cake, the Valeria cake: a base of mushroom cake filled with wild strawberries with ricotta and rum flavor and covered in flaming meringue.
To support Girolamo, the son Gianfranco as an art son once completed his studies working full time in the patisserie.< Jeg har et stort ansvar - fortæller han mig - for at bevare den historiske sjæl af kager lavet af traditionelle slik. Vi mangler for eksempel aldrig mandelkager. Kunderne behøver ikke at booke dem, de ved, at de altid finder dem her >>.
Then there are the old molds, zealously stored in a cupboard that, for obvious reasons, are no longer used. Aluminum containers for spumoni, pasta cutters of all kinds, an old machine for grinding almonds, are the treasures of Girolamo, who with him have seen very important historical events, the twenty years of fascism, war, reconstruction and the republic. . Like this gentleman / confectioner from the past, who still goes down to the patisserie today at five in the morning, straps on his apron and always works with the same enthusiasm, intoxicated by the scent of spices and lemons, the same for over seventy several years.
The vintage photos are taken from Ebad’s digital archive in Eboli Municipality