Mantua has always had a special place at my table. The local cuisine is marked by its original character and delicious dishes, yet the real reason for my liking is far more personal. My father's maternal family comes from there and at home we've always cooked Mantuan for special occasions like the Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas Day Lunch. Through my childhood and adolescence, our infrequent trip to Mantua were always highlighted by great meals cooked at home by one of my relatives and the delicious obligatory sweets.
Mantuans love their sweets, and the city's pastry shops carry impressive arrays from which to choose from but there's a core of of four special sweets that most locals consider as THE real thing. The quartet of typical Mantuan sweets is made up by the Helvetia cake, probably invented by a Swiss pastry chef (hence the name) and made of soft disks of almond based dough layered with zabaione, butter cream or even chocolate, the Greca, a thin puff pastry shell containing a rich almond filling, the Anello del Monaco, a yeasted dough sweet in the Panettone and Pandoro tradition, and last but not least the Sbrisolona.