Il Fornaio, Rome
Just back from a week-long holiday in Rome and, though we ate many delicious things, by far my favorite find was Il Fornaio (Via dei Baullari, 5-7), which we stumbled across while looking for a main street and a taxi after a morning spent nibbling from the fruit, veggie and cheese stalls in Campo de Fiori. Such a obviously-well-loved, freshly-stocked bakery! The woman who waited on us couldn't have been nicer - recommending things she thought were particularly good and going into the back twice to give us pastries that were still cooling after their time in the oven. She chose two warm pastries for us - a tartlet with ricotta and marrons glacees, and a tartlet with chocolate hazelnut filling - which we ate right away. Both were amazing - the crusts sort of cookie-like and the ricotta as light as air. In the package that we devoured on the flight home were a custard-filled sfoglie Romana (sp?), a tartlet filled with pear, pine nut, almond and walnut, a chocolate chip-topped meringue and a coconut tartlet. Though the pear and nut tartlet was probably my favorite of these, the meringue was as eggy-tasting as any I've had and the coconut tartlet was beguilingly studded with rum-soaked raisins mixed into the coconut and mounded high above a creamy layer that tasted a sort of like cream cheese. The only sad part of the experience is that we found this superlative bakery on the last day of our holiday and so weren't able to go back several times for more. I hope this will help other chowhounds planning a trip to Rome from having the same regrets!