Ongoing research is central to Insider’s Italy.  Most of this research is undertaken in the squares, streets, hotels, museums, restaurants, markets, pastry shops and other institutions of Italy.  Occasionally this research occurs at home, as it did yesterday, when the Insider’s Italy staff took out pen and paper and undertook a blinding tasting of 10 brands of Italian bitter chocolate.

What is the appeal of Italian bitter chocolate ?  First of all, it is generally delicious, and produced by a number of small artisan companies and larger Italian owned firms.  Secondly it is readily packable and is flat, small — and inexpensive. And thirdly, outside of Baci Perugina, it is not much enjoyed outside of Italy, so an unusual present to take home.

We sampled 70-75% bitter chocolate, unflavored, from six regions of Italy, including two organic brands.

Our shortlist grew shorter and we concentrated on the flavors in our mouths. Long finish ?  A lingering impression of vanilla ?  Strong, clean chocolate flavor ?

The winner was a Tuscan chocolate, Amadei, produced by a brother-and-sister-owned company in Pontedera, near Pisa.  They make “cru” (single origin) bitter chocolate from specific areas of production, each with a definite taste and flavor, but the one we liked most was in fact  not of single origin, but called “9”.  This is Amadei’s “family treasure” chocolate, a blend of nine plantations which our children loved for its strong cocoa flavor and intensity.

Alessio and Cecilia say of their chocolate — in what seems to us a state of chocolate-induced swoon : “the enrapturing perfume tickles the smell, and recalls the aromas of far away countries. Breaking the chocolate with fingers, creates a limpid and pure crackling, and enters the mind without knocking.”  Indeed so !

“9”, priced around 3.60 Euro for 100 grams and beautifully packaged, is available at Rome’s Cafe Sant’Eustacchio (Piazza Sant’Eustacchio) Florence’s DolceForte (Via della Scala 21 black) and at many good cafes Italy wide.


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