As charming as the shop is, it's the product that draws the customers. If you've never tasted freshly baked biscotti, do yourself a favor and stop by. The twice-baked cookies are full of flavor, not like dry commercial varieties that have lingered too long on the shelf.
The first biscotti Mr. Buonocore made for sale was flavored with traditional anise. Today, he makes anise, lemon, orange, chocolate hazelnut, all plain or chocolate dipped, and raisin. Raisin biscotti has always been considered an adult treat since it is traditionally served with wine after the children leave the table.
Raisin biscotti, made from his "nonna" or grandmother's recipe, is now featured in tasting rooms at Northern California wineries. Mr. Buonocore credits his grandmother with many of his recipes and says as a youngster he was "always in the kitchen" with her and his aunt.
The sweets at La Biscotteria don't stop with biscotti. The shop features amaretti (almond macaroon cookies), and amaretti kisses (two cookies filled with dark chocolate and sandwiched together). There are luscious cannoli (pastry shells filled with ricotta and mascarpone cheese, liquor, mini dark chocolate chips and orange peel). They must be specially ordered. A box of six is $18. Mr. Buonocore also makes torrone (nougat candy) and panforte (Siena cake) that tastes better than what you find in Siena. La Biscotteria also imports Venchi Italian chocolate bars. Another favorite sweet is chocolate-covered figs ($7 a bag).
During the Christmas holidays, Mr. Buonocore will be baking cucidati: Sicilian fig cookies stuffed with almonds, hazelnuts, orange and lemon peel and figs soaked in liquor (box of 35 cookies $25).
Panettone, sweet bread with raisins and candied fruit, is available throughout the year, but at Christmas the shop will carry star shaped and chocolate chip varieties.
Saturdays are a big day at La Biscotteria. Several varieties of focaccia are sold. Customers know to come early or order in advance. A 1/4 sheet focaccia comes with different toppings: tomato and green onion ($6), veggie ($6), onion ($6), artichoke and pesto ($7), and eggplant, tomato sauce and onion ($9).
The stuffed focaccia menu includes: swiss chard, parmigiano and mozzarella cheese ($12), swiss chard and ground beef ($12), and ham and mozzarella cheese ($10).
Mary Shepherd of Menlo Park was in the shop recently to order focaccia for her son's engagement party. She planned to serve it as an appetizer before a barbecue. She also ordered focaccia to serve 60 at a potluck for the St. Raymond's Church choir the following day.
The Rev. Patrick Michaels, pastor of St. Raymond Catholic Church in Menlo Park, was another visitor that afternoon. He stopped by to bring the store manager, Angela Festa, some of the shop's ravioli he had prepared the night before in a sauce of cherry tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, butter, garlic, onions, and a touch of red pepper flakes. A regular at the shop, Father Pat left with a bag of amaretti with chocolate.
The ravioli is filled with veal, beef, chicken, Swiss chard, parmigiano and Romano cheese. A box of 48 ravioli (one pound) serves three or four people ($9). Mr. Buonocore uses chard, tomatoes, and rosemary from his garden in his recipes.
Another customer, who loaded up on ravioli, homemade breadsticks (8 oz. $6), rosemary crostini (8 oz. $4), and biscotti, said: "I've got wine at home. Now I'm all set for dinner. I used to have to go to San Francisco to get this stuff."
La Biscotteria is charming; the products are delicious, but there's more. Ms. Festa finds time to chat with customers and greets them like old friends. She lets you sample any of the varieties of biscotti. It's a shop where you want to linger for a while.
By the time this article appears, Ms. Festa and Mr. Buonocore will be partners in life, as well as in business. They were married Oct. 28 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in San Francisco on her parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Their reception was held at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club.
Mr. Buonocore made the cannoli and biscotti for the wedding reception, but the wedding cake was made by a friend. It was a Saint Honore cake, named for Saint Honore, the patron saint of pastry bakers. A Saint Honore cake consists of a cake base topped with a ring of cream puffs that are filled with rum custard and dipped in caramel. The caramel coating "glues" the puffs together. The center of the ring is traditionally filled with Saint Honore cream, creme patisserie lightened with whipped cream.
The bride, who is an artist, was planning to present her new husband with a special gift at the wedding reception. "I know he'll cry when he sees it," she said.
La Biscotteria, 2747 El Camino Real, Redwood City, is open Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday. No credit cards; checks over $10 are accepted. Telephone is 366-2747.
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