One of the most diffused of all Italian sweets is the fried pastry called crostoli. You’ve seen them. They’re brittle, sometimes with edges as sharply patterned and regular as a new postage stamp, then dusted with icing sugar. Bite into one and it will shatter like Murano glass.
In my home region of Lombardia, up north, they can be variously called chisoi, ciaccier or manzòle. Of course, in the typical contrary way that is a hallmark of Italy, in my home town they are commonly called lattughe.
Up and down the peninsula the same fried pastries, albeit with some slight differences in form or flavouring, can be called bugie (lies), risòle, galani, sassole (pebbles), carafoi, puttanelle, frottole, nastrini (little bows), donzellini and even frati fritti (fried priests). Who would have thought that a simple mixture of flour, eggs, butter and sugar with the addition of simple flavourings such as grappa and citrus could produce so many permutations?
Even though it’s basically the same article, the Italian desire for the expression of the individual leads each pastry maker to respect the original tradition but at the same time confuse and confound by changing it in every way possible. As if that were not enough, each version is passionately defended as being the authentic, the best tasting and the most genuine.
Crostoli, or lattughe, or whatever you call them, are traditionally eaten at home during the Christmas season. They are festive looking with their snow-white dusting and perfect with grappa and espresso.