Via S. Gottardo, 6780 Airolo, Switzerland
Driving through the Alps from Switzerland to Italy, we passed through a number of small towns. As lunch time loomed, we stopped at the town of Airolo to look for some food. Not much was open, but we found a panetteria and pasticceria called Beffa. Being southern Switzerland, this was an Italian-speaking region. After some halting words with a young lady who didn’t speak any English, we managed to get some panini, freshly made in a back room. And sitting in the pastry display was a set of millefoglie, the Italian version of a vanilla slice.
We got a small round table in the dimly lit cafe section of the pasticceria. An adjacent table held five elderly men who were drinking espressos and having an animated discussion in Italian. This was the sort of place where old men gather to while away the hours gossiping with their friends. After eating our sandwiches, I turned my attention to the millefoglie presented on a similarly aged plate.
It looks … interestingly rustic. The slice has a thick white icing with a high gloss finish, topping asymmetric layers of pastry that look neat on one side with two thick custard layers in between, but the pastry expands and puffs out on the other side so that the custard there is thinner. The custard looks a slightly suspicious greyish yellow. The best part looks like the pastry, which has many crispy looking layers and promises a delight of crunch and flakiness.
Being in a cafe in a foreign country, I figure they’re not used to people attacking a vanilla slice by hand, so I resort to the fork. The icing has a hard top surface, which squashes messily under fork pressure, oozing the softer icing beneath. The custard is light and creamy, more like a buttercream that a custard. It has some vanilla flavour but it’s not particularly strong, and there is a hint of something else, citrusy, somewhere between orange and lemon. The pastry is indeed nice and light, the numerous thin flaky layers crunching satisfactorily – it’s pretty good really. Overall this is not bad, but rather a different experience from a traditional slice, with the light citrusy custard.