The prestigious Accademia Maestri Pasticceri Italiana (Italian Accademy of Master Pastry Chefs) has conferred on Santi Palazzolo from Cinisi (province of Palermo), the meritorious award of “Pasticcere dell’Anno 2018-2019” (Best Pastry Chef 2018-2019). The Trofeo Pavoni was bestowed on Santi Palazzolo “in recognition of his commitment and constance in pursuing his objectives and his extraordinary professional accomplishments.” Plus his “great professionality in reinterpreting the pastry traditions of his territory, giving a constant impulse to all Italian confectionery”.
I feel lucky in being able to catch him for an interview as he is continuously travelling around the world promoting the best of Sicily’s patisserie traditions.
“Best Pastry Chef of the year, what does it mean to you”? I ask Santi. “Receiving an award,” he answers, “means there are people who appreciate what you do. When these people are your fellow colleagues, the value of this recognition is even greater. The merit of an award, however, is never one-handed but shared. For this reason I want to share it with my collaborators and my family.”
We can consider Santi Palazzolo an emblem of Sicilian “pasticceria”. His childhood playground was the family sweet laboratory between counters and worktops, creams and cakes. It was his grandfather, from whom he inherited both his name and passion, who opened their first pastry shop.
“When my grandfather returned from the war in 1919,” Santi tells us, “he wanted to do something special for the Cinisi townfolk. For too many years grief, sorrow and even hunger had tormented the people. From the war he understood that life was to be enjoyed, for this reason he decided to become a “dolciere” (confectioner, in Sicilian dialect)”.
“There’s a long story that my father used to tell me about my grandfather of which I am very fond,” continues Santi, “in those days life was very difficult and money was scarse”. To begin working, his father (my great-grandfather) gave him a weighing scale, 2lb of flour, 2lb of sugar and ten eggs. He put all his passion into his work and slowly people began to visit his shop in the town square and buy his delicious sweets.” The peak of his success arrived in 1925 from the International Exhibit in Montecatini where he presented his “Buccellato”, a traditional fig-filled Sicilian pastry awarded with a Gold Medal.
Vito, Santi’s father, never became a pastry chef. They used to call him “l’avvocato” (the lawyer) for his university studies. Vito, instead, had an outstanding entrepreneurial ability that led the Pasticceria Palazzolo to fame for the quality of its products and professionality.
Santi took over the family company in 1985 combining passion, competence and a keen innovative spirit in full respect of Sicilian traditions. Collaborating with his wife Nunzia, his five children and his exceptional team, Santi’s Pasticceria Palazzolo has expanded with new innovations: a show-room at the Palermo Airport, an ice-cream and pastry shop at the Fi.Co-Eatalyworld in Bologna, a bistro in Normandy (France) and his new hi-tech Pastry Lab inaugurated last year.
Coming to Cinisi, a visit to the Palazzolo Pastry Shop on the main street is a must. Rows of sparkling glass showcases exhibit a myriad of sweets. Breakfast doughnuts and pastries, savoury arancine, pizzette and calzoni (ham and mozzarella filled breads), cakes and cassate, mignon pastries, marzapan fruits, ice cream and granite and oh.. if you want a cannolo, you need to wait a couple minutes. They will fill it on sight for you with delicious creamy ricotta!