When I think of European chocolate, Switzerland and Belgium rule. But after tasting these chocolates, I’m going to add Italy too.
When it comes to Italians and chocolate, I think of Nutella which is Italian in origin. While it’s no less special to me, it comes not from a boutique but in a bottle from a supermarket. So I’m somewhat apprehensive when my friend and home baker Ann Puno gifts me with chocolates from Padova (Padua), Italy. They’re called Villa Del Conte Cioccolato Sublime (herewith called Villa Del Conte for brevity), made by a three-generation artisan confectionary business.
It’s interesting to note here that the Italians do excel at chocolate. It was the chocolate artisans in the Italian cities of Torino and Alba who first taught the Swiss the intricacies of chocolate making, and chocolate for eating (bars, etc.) as we know it today was also created in Torino.
In the case of Villa Del Conte chocolates, they’re made in Villa Del Conte, a town in Padova. Padova is the largest city in the Veneto region and is the site of the Basilica Di Sant’Antonio, a majestic church that many Catholics make a pilgrimage to. One of the partners bringing in Villa Del Conte chocolates, Vince Aldanese, was on pilgrimage to Padova when he chanced upon the locality. He was enamored with its quaintness and heritage and the confections crafted from age-old recipes. So he and the rest of his group – Atty. Rene Puno, Eva Gullas, and Cel Montalban – made quick work initiating Filipinos’ introduction to Italian chocolates.
Laid out in their glory, the Villa Del Conte chocolates dazzle, as chocolates are designed to do. A duo of shapes, praline balls and praline sticks, scintillate in wrappers similar to cellophane, their colors indicative of their flavors. The orb dressed in robust brown unleashes its cache of macadamia cream filling, while elsewhere, a golden globe gleams before revealing its winning caramel cream filling. I try not to get sidetracked as I see spheres of dark chocolate – bite! – and a mini rivulet of hazelnut cream filling flows through while a praline crunch (called “cereals”) makes itself heard.
With the resultant crunchcrunch resounding still on tongue and taste, I turn to the praline sticks. These are most elegant fingers, glossy and sharp in milk and dark through which seep creamy sweetness: strawberry, banana, mint, and orange. Ooh! Wow. Ow! Fierce these are, strongly-flavored and only for the brave, lest you be off-put by such boldness.
Renee Puno, the company’s Executive Vice President, tells me that Villa del Conte chocolates offer the entire Italian lifestyle, its authenticity and homey feel. “[These] are really artisanal, made in a small town,” she states. “The brand isn’t overly commercial nor does it aim to be. It thrives on a niche market that truly appreciates good chocolate.” The company offers customizable as well as seasonal products. For now, chocolates cannot be bought individually, so consider the various boxes in 100g, 250g, and 500g variants.
And for those who still hold steadfast to the belief that Italian chocolates must taste like Nutella, or some hazelnut-chocolate permutation, I recommend the Gianduja (what else?) praline sticks in dark chocolate encasing hazelnut cream and whole hazelnuts. Another similar option are the Ovicini, dark chocolate “eggs” coated in pastel sugar hues filled with hazelnut cream.
Villa Del Conte Cioccolato Sublime
3/F Shangri-La EDSA Plaza Mall
EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong.
For orders: (02) 893 2575 / (02) 621 6101
See here for products offered.
Click here for price list.