• The Original Panettone

It happened at the turn of the century, the 15th century. The year was 1491, to be exact.

At that time, almost five centuries before Italy, the Country, came to be, Milano was under the memorable rule of His Highness “il Duca (The Duke) Ludovico Maria Sforza, a progressive leader with a profound appreciation of the arts. 

The regent of the Duchy of Milano was a true Renaissance Man, a visionary known far and wide as “Il Moro” (The Moor). He had earned this nickname in childhood because of his dusky complexion and hair.  A patron of Leonardo Da Vinci, the Duke commissioned several magnificent paintings from the great artist, including portraits of himself and–perhaps most famously–The Last Supper, which hangs today at Milano’s Santa Maria delle Grazie Church’s adjacent Convent’s Refectory.

There are many old stories that date to this time period. Some are fiction, others have become legend.

And then there are the important true stories, such as the one we are about to share with you. One of Il Moro’s contemporaries found himself at the extreme opposite end of the social scale: Toni was a humble servant hired to clean, remove waste, and wash dishes in the private kitchen of the Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle, still standing today in the center of Milano). Toni’s duties included assisting the kitchen’s cooks and pastry workers.

Toni was known for a particular talent: he could assemble leftover ingredients in such a way as to create “strange but edible” delicacies. His concoctions might be cooked (if only partially) or baked thoroughly to create a bread. Toni’s recipes were sometimes savory, sometimes sweet.

His ability turned into a mission, by re-using the kitchen scraps, and became a very noble one: Toni wanted to help the hungry by handing out his leftover creations to the poor and the homeless. Word of Toni’s generosity spread, and every day, lines of beggars formed at the back door of the castle’s huge kitchen, spilling into the surrounding streets and alleys.

On the day of the year’s most anticipated culinary event — the Duke’s annual Christmas Luncheon — an accident caused irreparable damage to the cake destined to crown the holiday feast. In a rush, and suddenly remembering Toni’s charitable mission, the chefs and pastry cooks scrambled to inspect the back rooms to see whether Toni had prepared something for his needy followers that was suitable for their liege and his guests. There, they discovered one single item that—apart from tasting delicious—was also perfectly presentable in The Duke’s dining room: a tall, fluffy loaf of sweet bread shaped like a Sultan’s crown.

Today, Toni’s culinary improvisation—“Pan de Toni”—is better known as Panettone or bread of Tony, one of the world’s most popular and beloved Christmas desserts.

Sharing Panettone is a cherished holiday tradition in Italy and all over the globe. And the sweet story of how a kitchen “accident” gave rise to the Panettone will forever remind us that compassion and generosity have the power to inspire millions of people at holiday time.

Italy’s Fraccaro Family, bakers of Panettone, maintains the strictest standards in producing this centuries-old recipe with the very same organic (biologico) ingredients used by Toni himself.

They are proud and worthy custodians of the Panettone legacy; baking a holiday dessert that nourishes body, mind, heart, and soul. We are grateful to the Fraccaro Family for keeping alive this very important holiday tradition, so that we can give our customers what they deserve: ONLY THE VERY BEST!

Efforts are under way to obtain Protected Designation of Origin and Denominazione di origine controllata status for this product, but these have not yet been successful. Former Italian Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro was known to be looking at ways to protect and preserving “genuine Italian cakes” from reproduction in South America, and exploring whether action could be taken at the World Trade Organization.

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