You could walk through Rome’s old Ghetto a hundred times and never notice it. Then again, the smells wafting out of Pasticceria “Boccione” Limentani (Via Portico D’Ottavia, 1; +39-06-687-8637, +39-06-687-8637) might not only stop you in your tracks, they might empower you to withstand an agonizingly slow-moving line in a tiny shop housing a cranked up industrial oven.
The walls of the bottega — nothing more than a few glass cases displaying whatever remains of the day’s goodies — are bare except for a few newspaper clippings, a Keren Kayemeth collection box (which funds tree planting in Israel) and a Hebrew copy of the Declaration of the State of Israel. But if the austere charms of the bakery, which is only heightened by the sometimes discourteous service, doesn’t win you over, the sweets certainly will.
The forno del ghetto, just one of the many names by which Romans call the bakery, has a limited repertoire, but everything on offer is exceptional. Of three or four cookie varieties, which include almond macaroons and cinnamon almond biscotti, don’t miss the unique and addicting pizze, dense bricks of sweet dough bursting with whole almonds, pine nuts, raisins and chunks of candied fruit (price varies by weight; a typical pizza goes for about 3 euro each). Baked throughout the day to keep up with demand, they’re usually warm and, like most of the forno’s sweets, are burnt almost to a crisp on top.
Another of Boccione’s highlights is the double-crusted, over-stuffed crostata (the Italian version of a tart or pie), which I nominate the best in Rome. Upon request, the ladies behind the counter will slice the rich pies — available in ricotta e cioccolato (ricotta and chocolate), ricotta e visciole (ricotta and wild cherry) and, a personal favorite, mandorla e visciole (almond paste and wild cherry) — to your liking so you can sample them all (about 18 euro for a whole crostata). That is, of course, if you get there in time: Boccione’s fresh pastries and most crostate usually sell out by late morning, especially on Sundays, but if you call ahead they’ll put aside whatever you like.
Just like Rome’s Jewish community, Boccione holds the banner of a tradition that will never fade. So if you happen to wander through the Ghetto at the right time, let your nose be your guide. Your mouth will certainly thank you.
Pasticceria “Boccione” Limentani is closed on Jewish high holidays, Friday afternoons, Saturdays, the last three weeks in August, and between 2 and 4 p.m. during the summer.