In US towns of less than 3,000 people, travelers will be lucky to find an independent small cafe, sandwich shop, or a barbecue joint. Sadly, most towns of such modest size can only offer modest franchised establishments like Subway, or perhaps a Sonic or Dairy Queen drive-in. In Italian towns of comparable size, you never know what you’ll find: a niche winery, an ancient producer of olive oil, a hundred-year-old bakery using wild yeasts, a Michelin starred restaurant, or a stellar pastry shop like De Riso in Minori (population 2,718, plus a few mules, pigs, goats, dogs, and cats). The De Riso family has been selling lemon ices on the waterfront since 1909; third-generation proprietor Sal De Riso had a vision of pastry in the late 80s, and his vision was expansive.
Today, more than 50 different specialty cakes, nearly as many kinds of single-portion desserts, almost a dozen desserts in glasses or jars, a line of preserves, liqueurs, gelato, sorbettos, and long-keeping souvenir cakes (reformulated from ancient Roman spice cake recipes) emerge from the kitchens of De Riso’s workshop in nearby Tramonti, destined for the original shop in Minori or one of the seven additional retail outlets he oversees. (From the looks of the products, they’re almost certainly served in swank hotels up and down the Amalfi Coast.)
I can think of few things finer than a slice of complicated pastry, an espresso, and a view of the Mediterranean. De Riso has all three in spades. If it weren’t halfway around the world, I’d be a regular. My favorite aspect of De Riso’s patisserie offerings? No matter how baroque in concept, they all look like food: not a speck of edible glitter, iridescent coatings, or garish colors. Just an oh-so-italian focus on ingredients’ quality & sourcing, a fact evident in the standout flavors of each confection.