To bite into a slice of Francesca Spalluto’s torta al pistacchio is to be transported to Sicily. Each taste is luscious and lively with hints of citrus that almost make it possible to envision the sparkling blue water, smell the salt air and hear the noise of the island. It’s how Spalluto hoped people would react when she began Dolci di Franci in 2014.
“My vision was to let people travel to Italy through my food,” Spalluto said.
Dolci di Franci sells four kinds of traditional six-inch Italian cakes. Show up with one for that holiday party you’re attending and watch as people swoon.
Each cake is reminiscent of a different region in Italy. Experience Capri with the torta caprese (chocolate almond cake), which pastry chef Carmine Fiore is said to have invented for Al Capone. Taste Pidmont, where locally produced hazelnuts are celebrated every year with festivals, with the torta langarola alla nocciola (hazelnut cake) and the Amalfi Coast with Spaulluto’s signature torta caprese al limoncello, (limoncello cake), made using limoncello liqueur from the area.
Spalluto is a trained chef but it was her daughter who inspired her to start Docli di Franci. She created several cakes for her daughter’s fourth birthday party that were such a hit, Spalluto began getting requests.
“I started looking around, seeing what was available in the neighborhood, lots of cookies but not many cakes and not many Italian products in our neighborhood,” Spaullto who grew up in Italy but lives in Park Slope said. “I thought well let me try something that is more modern, has a longer shelf life, is not a butter, flower cake.”
All of the cakes are made from nut flower using recipes that stick closely to Italian tradition in Spalluto’s certified home kitchen. She began selling the cakes in a local liquor store and quickly went from four or five a week to 30 and now 180.
“They are very Italian, clean taste, clean ingredients, I try to only use what I would buy for myself.”
While, she doesn’t ship her cakes you can find them throughout Brooklyn and now on the Upper East Side at Fleisher’s. Spalluto is currently looking for a kitchen that will allow her to produce more cakes and hopes someday to open a retail outlet.
“I’d imagine it as a space where I could take my costumers into a culinary tour of Italy, offering the most known and unknown traditional desserts,” Spalluto said.