One of Italy’s top pastry shops is located inside a prison in Padua (Veneto); there, salaried inmates produce artisanal cookies, pies, nougats, holiday cakes, and much more.
But it is the panettone, Italy’s signature Christmas cake, that the pasticceria is most famous for. It is regularly ranked among Italy’s top ten.
The peculiarity of this story, which even made the New York Times’ homepage, is that Pasticceria Giotto is located inside the Casa di Reclusione Due Palazzi prison in the outskirts of Padua.
The pasticceria’s website proudly states: “In 2005, we took the pastry shop to the Due Palazzi prison in Padua to work side by side with inmates. To date, more than 200 have been trained professionally in the art of pastry-making and beyond.”
The pastry shop was founded by the Work Crossing cooperative, a nonprofit group that operates prison work programs in the region. The cooperative still manages the program and, in early December, the New York Times reports, the cooperative opened a Pasticceria Giotto storefront in Padua.
Of the approximately 500 inmates in the prison, 38 are employed in the pastry shop, supervised by four professional pastry chefs; the others are employed in different work programs, such as a call center for medical exams reservations, or in the manufacturing of suitcases.
Those who make it into the pastry shop program are chosen according to several criteria, and not before they have worked with a psychologist for six months. A factor that is taken into account is the need to sustain a family outside, as well as the personal profile and the length of the sentence. Every prisoner is regularly hired under a contract and receives a paycheck that he can send to his family in an attempt to create/keep a connection with the outside world and instill in them a sense of usefulness that they would otherwise not feel.
The panettone prepared at Pasticceria Giotto takes three days to prepare because multiple kneading and leavenings are required. Pasticceria Giotto is expected to bake more than than 80,000 panettoni this holiday season.
Besides the traditional panettone, the Giotto team has prepared several creative variations such as panettone amarene gianduia (gianduia and cherries), panettone cioccolato e caffè (chocolate and coffee), panettone cioccolato e fichi (chocolate and figs) - yum yum :)
The pastry also makes pralines, biscuits, gelato, Venetian focaccia, colombe, all available in their e-shop and in their Padua store, and exported to the rest of Italy and abroad.