Reacting to the emergency: Cristian Marasco and the wood oven for pizza where he also bakes panettoni

The patron of La Grotta Azzurra used his talent against the difficulties of the pandemic. Hard work, lots of tests, «for two months I woke up at 4», but in the end it was a success

Cristian Marasco behind the counter of his La Gr

Cristian Marasco behind the counter of his La Grotta Azzurra in Merate (Lecco)

«The most difficult thing? Baking in the wood oven». This statement by Cristian Marasco, pizzaiolo originally from Campania but born in Lecco and with positive reviews in our guide and in all the others in the industry, could leave a little surprised. And indeed it is surprising because what he's pulling out of the wood oven at La Grotta Azzurra, the restaurant he runs in Merate (with "branches" in Garlate and Bonate Sopra), is not classic pizza (which in his case are hardly classic, given the 96 hours of leavening) but panettoni that smell beautifully. And which were very successful among the fans of this maestro pizzaiolo.

«I'm not a pastry-chef and, on top of the specific knowledge, I don't have a leavening room, nor do I have a rotating ventilated oven and, above all, I only have an oven with which I had to meet the different needs of the pizza and panettone dough» Marasco explains. However, he's found the right solution to all his problems. «For two months I woke up at 4 a.m. to bake, but I was really satisfied because I overcame the diffidence of my most sceptical clients who at first were surprised that a pizzaiolo could bake panettoni», he admits.

Marasco's panettone 

Marasco's panettone 

It's not the first time that Marasco bakes panettoni. He says: «I started for fun in November 2019 adding panettone to the menu, as a dessert. The experiment was so successful I sold 200 of them». One year later, in 2020, the year of the pandemic, I tried again. «This time, however, with the pizzeria open only for delivery and take away, I didn't have the chance to make people taste it. So I started giving a piece for free with every pizza». A marketing strategy that was very successful because the boxed panettoni more than doubled, compared to 2019; in the end he delivered over 500, all made with the best ingredients starting from Petra - Molino Quaglia flour and candied fruit from Rolando Morandin. «On top of the traditional panettone with raisins, orange and lemon, which I prefer to citron because of its freshness, I added other flavours: Tirolese with cinnamon, walnuts, white chocolate and raisins; Cappuccino with fresh cream, mascarpone and coffee; and La Giglio with almond paste, candied apricots and almond glaze which I dedicated to my mum, Gigliola. On top of that I baked in the wood oven some pandoro as well».

For the pizzaiolo from Merate this is a «further proof of growth and of continuity». Contrary to those who have started making and selling panettone in the difficult 2020 to increase revenues, Marasco did it out of passion and out of a desire to grow, stealing time from his breaks. «I can't hide I had some setbacks, but until now thanks to the three restaurants in Merate, Garlate and Bonate with which we can cover a large area with delivery we have never had losses because we serve an average of 100/150 pizzas per day on weekdays, and 300 at the weekend. Of course, we hope to set the tables as soon as possible. From the beginning we've taken all the necessary steps in the kitchen and in the dining room, with single use tableware made with corn paper that is also environmentally friendly».

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Identità Golose


Identità Golose

This article is curated by Identità Golose, the publication that organises the international fine dining congress, publishes website www.identitagolose.com and the online Guida Identità Golose, on top of curating many other events in Italy and abroad

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