3 out of 5 stars

This is an eye-opening personal history of a girl who grew up in a convent on Sicily after her mother realised that she couldn’t afford to bring her and sister, Angela up after their father passed on so they were passed to the orphanage, Istituto San Carlo. Sicily at the time was just beginning a slow recovery after the war and life there was tough, people scratched a living and there was a high rate of mortality too.

In this place, she learnt the secrets of the sweets that were prepared for the numerous religious festivals. They would rise before dawn to begin the day’s work and spend hours each day beating a rolling the sugar and almond mix to make the exquisite pastries. These would be sold to the general public through a small grille in the wall of San Carlo.

The skills that she learnt whilst there were to stand her in good stead when she emerged at the age of 22. She set up her own shop selling these pastries as well as cakes, biscotti and lots of other sweet delights. The reputation of the pasticceria grew and people flocked to buy the wares. Mary Taylor Simeti was one of those customers and as they became friends she realised that Maria Grammatico had a unique story to tell

She has a hard but simple life and this is an insight into a Sicily that was long gone. As a plus, half of the book is a wonderful collection of recipes too which made me very hungry reading them. I am off to Sicily soon and whilst we might not make it here, I am hoping to try some of the wonderful things found in a pasticceria.

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