The most wonderful time

The most wonderful time

A look at how Pusateri’s prepares for the holiday season, plus a guide to indulgent gifts to spoil your loved ones.

Ida Pusateri

The holidays are not only our biggest season at Pusateri’s, they’re also my absolute favourite. I love the feeling of plenty around us—the buzz in our stores, the grocery carts filled up with goodies and the brightly packaged products on our shelves.

Curating our most special holiday items is a culmination of several months of planning. Starting in the spring, you can find me at gourmet trade shows in Milano, Parma, Bologna and elsewhere in Italy. I meet with vendors one-on-one to check out the latest trends and, boy, do we eat. This year, some of my favourite finds came from the biscotteria Antonio Mattei—the very place where Italian biscotti was invented more than 150 years ago—located in Prato, Tuscany, a place that’s considered a museum dedicated to the confectionary art form. We carried this line years ago, and I just love being able to bring their delicate biscotti back to Toronto this year.

Another discovery I’m proud of is pandolce from an inventive, modern bakery called Baghi’s in Veneto. This sweet bread is full of delicious candied fruits, steeped in spirits from all over Europe, and it’s sold in the glass jar it was baked in—a fun collectible. Fabio Pellizzari, Baghi’s owner, prides himself on using high-quality raw materials and has a deep passion for craftsmanship. Finding purist artisans like Fabio makes what we do very rewarding.

Quality olive oil is always on a food lover’s radar. This year, we’ve imported a limited-edition oversized bottle of Madonna dell’Olivo, sourced from the province of Salerno. I love the sweet, almond-like taste of the oil, resulting from a special variety of Carpellese olives pressed to make it—and the magnum size is sure to impress.

When considering hostess gifts, I love to give something that can be used again and again. I often opt for a Pusateri’s Canadian maple charcuterie board and load it up with the season’s best olives, charcuterie and cheeses: stilton in beautiful jars, nut-crusted camembert, fresh Italian burrata plus a slice of the Middle Eastern sesame cake halva, as a deliciously sweet counterpoint to the savoury flavours. Another surefire gift option is one of our hand-assembled gift boxes. We curate a beautiful assortment for the season, including, as of this month, a custom selection by the celebrity chef Stefano Faita that includes pasta from the fashion house Dolce and Gabbana.

Dolce and Gabbana is also, as it turns out, in the panettone business, having partnered with the confectionery company Fiasconaro for a unique Milanese recipe infused with Sicilian flavours such as citrus and pistachio. Nothing is more synonymous with Christmas than panettone, especially this good stuff, proofed for days using a mother yeast passed down through generations, then baked and cooled upside down to preserve its iconic dome shape. A personal favourite of mine is in our stores this year—a vibrant box encasing a pillowy panettone made by Fratelli Sicilia, with a side jar of a sweet, spreadable cream for liberal use. You have to try their crema di pistacchio, which, it seems, is a hot flavour this year.

I’m a sucker for panettone. I love it best on a cool, crisp winter morning, toasted with mascarpone and jam for breakfast. There are so many other ways: coated in egg and fried like French toast, or torn off piece by piece and slathered with nocciola. And it’s not just a holiday delicacy—I eat it well into springtime.

Starting in November, Pusateri’s will offer a beautiful wooden crate featuring gourmet picks from celebrity chef, Stefano Faita. It includes Stefano’s favourite items from our shelves, his own pizza and pasta sauces plus a delicious pasta made by the artisanal producer G. Di Martino in partnership with the iconic fashion house Dolce and Gabbana.

Next month: A conversation about the holidays and home cooking with celebrity chef Stefano Faita.