03 Jul The sweet taste of Casale: Krumiri Rossi Traditional Bisquits
Walking from Piazza Mazzini Square to Via Lanza, in the heart of the city, you can feel a unique sweet smell, the same since 1878. Following it, you will find the traditional place where the original biscuits Krumiri Rossi are produced and sold.
When we entered the shop at via Lanza 17, the smell became even more intense. We could see the entrance many pictures, letters, historical objects, demonstrating the long tradition that made the Krumiri Rossi: the biscuits symbols of Casale Monferrato.
Anna Maria Portinaro gives us a warm welcome and tells us the story of her family, who is since 60 years the official producer of the original Krumiri. Her grandfather, Ercole Portinaro, was the owner of the near and well-known coffee house and pastry Rossignoli, a popular meeting place for market sellers and personalities of the city. People came there to have a coffee, for aperitifs and to play cards till late in the night.
In this lively environment, where they were already producing Krumiri, Anna Maria grew up; in 1953, her grandfather bought the brand “Krumiri Rossi” with the related pastry shop, at the time located in via Paleologi, and since then Anna Maria is part and keeps on the passion of the family enterprise. In 1973, because of the increasing demand, the Portinaro family decided to stop the pastry activity and the coffeehouse to dedicate only to the production of Krumiri Rossi.
While listening to the story, we are invited to taste this famous speciality, still warm from the oven, with a cup of coffee. The fabulous smell, combined with the crunchy consistence and balanced flavour, makes it an extraordinary experience.
We visited then the back part of the store, where we could see how Krumiri are handmade and baked in the same simple way as in the past. We could meet the 12 employees and breath the nice and familiar atmosphere: some of them are working there since more than 25 years. We saw their experience and care in shaping by hand the biscuits one by one, baking without fixed time indication but observing the changing colour and finally packing the biscuits manually.
For Anna Maria the Krumiri are not just a business, it’s her life. She likes to say: “I was born with Krumiri in my DNA“. We are surprised to see her office, that looks more like a living room, expressing her love for painting and colours of Provence and the passion she brings to her work. Anna Maria tells us, that her biggest satisfaction is the relations with the clients, based on continuity and friendship.
A few years after creations, the sweetness of Krumiri earned already a series of important accolades: such as a bronze medal at the Turin Universal Exhibition in 1884 and Diploma as “Supplier to the Royal House of Italy to Umberto I”. An appreciation which continued over the years: these delicious cookies were “guests” in the Italian Parliament and at the White House, offered by an Italian delegation to the president of the time, Bill Clinton.
Despite this success the Portinaro decided not to overgrow and to keep the production low, in order to continue the handmade tradition; as Anna Maria said about the last 20 years: “Nothing has changed, and it’s our choice“.
There are many legends about the origin of the Krumiri. For example that Domenico Rossi baked the first Krumiri in 1878 in his confectioner’s kitchen with a little alchemy and a touch of magic. Some say, that the word Krumiri comes from the word “Krumm“, that means curved and is based on a Hebraic recipe. Since some years the Krumiri have also an official kosher certificate.
What we know from our own experience is, that in the childhood memories of every Casalese there are the Krumiri and its typical red metal box; and also Anna Maria mentions that the local people are in fact the best ambassadors for this unique confectionery.
Krumiri Rossi Portinaro
Address: Via Giovanni Lanza 17, 15033 Casale Monferrato AL
Phone: +39 0142 453030
Written by Margherita Bisello | Photography by Corinne Widmer | Photo courtesy of Portinaro & C. S.r.l.