One week sometime back in college, I took a trip to New York City with a few friends (thanks college loans!). One of those friends was the previously mentioned super Italian. He wanted to make a special trip to Little Italy, because I guess that’s what you do.
I had never been to Little Italy so I didn’t know what to expect exactly. I thought we’d be landing in some old world alcove dedicated to the celebration of all things from the boot. I thought there’d be washing hanging on clotheslines, the scent of meatballs in the air, night parades for martyred saints, Scorsese directing in the streets, and a lot of guys resembling those chef statuettes they sell at those horrible home decor stores.
I don’t know how it is nowadays, but at that time Little Italy could have been called Two Guys a Pizza Place and a Whole Lotta Chinatown. I couldn’t believe how small it was. And how touristy. We had to search for a pizza place that was open late, and the only one we found was terrible. I felt a little sad for those last holdouts refusing to give up the fort. Pretty soon it’ll all be bubble tea and Buddha figurines.
Also, there was a leather enthusiast biker block party happening and my car was broken into. I haven’t been back since.
But while we were there, we stopped at some big bakery place. I forget the name but there were a lot of vowels. Something along the lines of Luigi’s or Mamma Mia’s. Who can remember?
My friend bought a box of rainbow cookies that I quickly became obsessed with. You know the ones. Three different colored layers, raspberry or apricot jam in between, topped with chocolate. So great.
When I returned to Florida, I started to research how to make them. It was then that I had my first encounter with marzipan. I’ve since found out that this almond candy paste is quite divisive. I love it, my wife hates it. The same ratio holds for my circle of friends.
I make the cookies every once in a while, and still love them. They’re a little more labor intensive than your run of the mill chocolate chips, but they’re worth it. And if you have to participate in a baked goods happening, show up with homemade rainbow cookies. They’ll go quick, and people will think you possess crazy advanced culinary abilities.
If you enjoy the rainbows and don’t have the time to whip some up, and don’t live near a good bakery, Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Marzipan is a pretty close substitute, minus the jam and cookie softness, of course. They even have the dark chocolate snap you get when you bite through the cookie’s top layer. Nothing says Italy like German chocolate.
I didn’t love this bar, but I did like it. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s chocolate and it’s marzipan. If you know those flavors, you know this bar. I like both of those things well enough, but really, it just made me want the cookies.
(Cut to me in my Iron Chef apron sometime in the next couple of days.)
In the end, the bar was like my trip to Little Italy: a decent experience, but not one I’ll be revisiting anytime soon.
And happily it only cost me a few bucks and not a car stereo.