Sfratti

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Born in Sorano’s old town, Mario Lupi has been working in his family’s bar since he was a young boy.  After doing his mandatory year of military service, he spent an additional year studying to become a pastry chef in the town of Orvieto, where he also met his wife Nadia.  The two returned to Sorano, and he took over the running of the bar from his parents and built a small pastry kitchen.   Of the three bars in the piazza, I tend to go most often for my morning cappuccino to Bar Lupi, not only because Mario’s sweet breakfast cornetti are so good, but also because Mario is a wonderful source of local lore, and Nadia a great gossip and invaluable troubleshooter.  

All of Mario’s pastries are very good, but I tend to be partial to those that were traditionally made in town, some of which are unique to Sorano.   Mario learned the recipe for sfratti from Ginevra, his sister’s mother-in-law, who lived just a few houses down from his own home.  He makes the lovely honey and walnut rolls in time for the end of the year holiday season, and prefers to think that they were a traditional Christmas treat.  

Sfratti in Italian means “evictions,” and they likely were first made by a Jewish baker in Sorano as a sweet reminder of an unfortunate wrong the Jewish community of Sorano suffered in centuries past.  Jews originally had been welcomed as refugees by Count Niccolo Orsini to Sorano and the neighboring town of Pitigliano, after Pope Paul IV wrote in 1555 some anti-semitic diatribes, and first created the Rome Ghetto.  Fifty years later, the rule of the two towns was transferred from the Orsini family to the Florentine Medici, and Cosimo II assumed the tyrannical Papal attitude.  He began by making the Jews pay unfair commodity taxes and then required them to wear signs on their clothing indicating their religious affiliation.  Finally, ghettos were set up in both Pitigliano and Sorano, where the Via del Ghetto exists to this day.  The eviction was enacted when an official came and indicated that the home had to be immediately abandoned by rapping on the front door with a small wooden club- and it is that club that became the inspiration for Mario’s sfratti.

When the far more liberally minded Lorena family took over the Duchy of Tuscany from the Medici, the lot of the Jews of Sorano and Pitigliano improved considerably, to the point where Pitigliano came to be known as “Little Jerusalem” and, by the mid 18th century, the Jewish community numbered 400 out of a total population of about 3000.  Today in Sorano, the old Jewish bakery has long been shuttered, and the old painted sign that once indicated the “Locanda Della Stella di Davide”- the Star of David tavern- is barely discernable.  The synagogue is now used as an art gallery.  But, the delicious “Christmas” sfratti will not let us forget.