Anyone strolling past Pasticceria il Boccione in the late afternoon might not see anything special. By that point, the window display set into its rust-colored, crumbling facade might very well be empty. Perhaps there will be one or two rounds of left-over crostata. But these, too, might mislead unknowing passersby: Burnt to a crisp on top, they look almost like mistakes.
Like its humble exterior, the bakery’s blackened crostata hide delicious contents and serious history. Local legend holds that these crispy tops once served an important purpose: When a 16th-century papal decree forbade Roman Jews from selling dairy products, resourceful bakers hid their crostata’s ricotta and wild cherry filling beneath a blackened upper crust. The result was a new treat that’s remained a neighborhood favorite to this day.
Opened in 1815, Pasticceria il Boccione is the oldest surviving bakery in Rome’s Jewish ghetto. Along with the classic cherry and a chocolate-chip version of their crostata, Boccione is also known for its pizza ebraica. A far cry from anything covered in mozzarella and tomato sauce, this “Hebraic pizza” is actually a hard cookie studded with dried fruit and nuts. Although they can only be found within the Jewish ghetto, the sweet, crunchy logs have found fans in unexpected places: In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared pizza ebraica his favorite dessert.
As one of the only remaining sources of these rare sweets, Pasticceria il Boccione tends to sell out in the morning. Set your alarm, then follow the smell of yeast and caramelizing sugars through the cobblestone streets of this historic neighborhood until you find the line of hungry fans.