Grissini are the perfect accompaniment to your pre-dinner drink. Have you ever wondered about the history of these delicious, crispy breadsticks?
Grissini’s birthplace is also Italy’s birthplace: Turin in Piemonte. Turin, best known to the British for ‘The Italian Job’, was actually Italy’s first capital city, because some of the key figures responsible for creating the Italy we know today came from Piemonte, one of them being Victor Emanuel II, King of Savoy. Even more importantly, it was thanks to the House of Savoy that we have grissini, according to local legend. Duke Vittorio Amedeo II had great difficulty digesting most foods. The family doctor turned to a local baker, Brunero, who decided to take the local ghersa bread and stretch it out into long, thin strips. After the strips had been baked they were more easily digested; not only were these breadsticks a success with the Duke, they became popular with his family, the Torinese and then the rest of Italy. Indeed, rather akin to people buying popcorn at the cinema, the members of the House of Savoy were known to eat grissini during theatrical performances. It was perhaps also thanks to grissini that the Duke went on to become the first King of the new Kingdom of Sardinia - Piedmont, in 1713. One of grissini’s biggest fans was Napoleon Bonaparte who at the beginning of the 19th century set up a stagecoach service mainly dedicated to delivering what he called ‘les petits batons’.
It’s perhaps important to note at this point that in Italian, the word storia means both history and story. Whilst this is the most popular legend, there are other stories of grissini which date back to the 1300s. Grissia was the name given to local bread and at this point in history, following inflation, bakers made smaller and smaller loaves of bread. Grissino is a diminutive of grissia. There are also other references to grissini well before the House of Savoy legend but, as the Italians would say, why spoil a good story.
Saporista’s grissini supplier, Fratelli Cavero, originally baked their acclaimed, hand-rolled breadsticks in the historical oven situated in front of the medieval Barolo Castle. They’ve since moved to the main town square, but over the years they have maintained exactly the same ritual, the goodness of the ingredients and, above all, their love for a job that is born not trained.