Ever since I was a lad I’ve tried to picture what was behind the wall of blue paper bags.
I would walk past the store windows of Biscottificio Antonio Mattei, known to locals as La Mattonella, and if I was really lucky at that moment a customer would open the door and a terrific gust of toasted almonds would delight my nose and tickle my taste buds. When my mamma went there to buy a crumbly almond mantovana cake, I’d stand on the tips of my toes, peeping through the bakery door. At home, when we opened one of those blue bags adorned in gold writing, I wanted to keep that green string all to myself, so precious it seemed to me.
As an adult I have travelled abroad for work, met people all over the world for business and I have always carried those blue bags in my case, a crunchy way to talk about one of the many things we know how to make in Prato. Upon request, I have even been known to take orders for mixed bags of cantucci and brutti ma buoni (ugly but good) cookies.
Recently the Biscottificio had the honour of being featured on an Italian stamp, and for the occasion I was invited to breakfast in the bakery. Yes, I finally got to see behind the door—and to observe the factory where the original recipe continues to be observed in this Prato lovemark, home to culinary secrets and the blue packaging that has made Antonio Mattei cookies the once-seen-never-forgotten brand it is today.