In 1858, Italy was still a “mere geographical expression”, in the words pronounced thirty years earlier by Metternich. Tuscany was a grand duchy under the rule of Leopold II- for not much longer though- and was busy with preparations for the second war of independence against Austria. And in Prato, at Via Ricasoli 22, Antonio Mattei had just opened his biscuit factory and store and was making a dry almond biscuit, from a recipe of his own invention, which was bound to become Prato’s most typical and traditional biscuit.
“In the 19th century, Antonio Mattei, a pastry chef from Prato, perfected a recipe that became a classic and for which he won many awards in Italy and abroad and a special mention at the International Exposition of Paris in 1867. The “Mattonella” bakery , as it is commonly referred to, is still operating in Prato at the same location and is considered to be the guardian of the cantucci biscuit tradition.” – from Wikipedia
That is how the story of the strong bond between the biscuit factory and the town of Prato, which is hardly understandable to outsiders, began. For over one century and a half, no Sunday or holiday has been complete in Pratese people’s houses without the blue-papered cantuccini or the other delicacies we make, which are, today, a mainstay of Italian culinary culture. In fact, Mattei’s bakery products soon gained a strong reputation beyond the borders of Prato and Tuscany: the medal for merit in 1861 at the Italian Exposition, the special mention at the Universal Exposition of Paris in 1867. In addition to Artusi, Prato’s biscuits count many illustrious fans: : Malaparte, Ardengo Soffici, Sem Benelli, Hermann Hesse and former presidents Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and Bill Clinton.
In 1908, the business was taken over by Ernesto Pandofini, who had been working at the biscuit factory for a long time and went on pursuing the founder’s commitment to high quality and creativity. Ernesto created and developed new products, such as the Filone candito, Brutti Buoni, Biscotto della Salute, which are now thought of as the bakery’s signature products and whose recipes and cooking methods are as strictly followed as those used in the making of the Biscotto di Prato.