There are foods that are so inherent in the collective culinary culture that they are taken completely for granted as if they had always existed. Have you ever wondered who invented pizza, or spaghetti? Probably not; you eat them (and enjoy them) and that’s enough in itself. The same happens in Italy with cantucci, those very famous Tuscan almond biscuits that, when combined with the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo, have found their supreme vocation and what in Florence and the surrounding area forms the perfect conclusion to any meal worthy of the name.
In this case, however, we know with 100% certainty who invented them. It was Antonio Mattei who baked the first cantuccio, in 1858, in his biscuit factory in Prato, in the Province of Florence. Mattei won numerous awards for his creations; then, in 1908, he passed on the activity to Ernesto Pandolfini, who had worked with him for a long time and continued to demand the same quality level as the founder, also extending the range of products for sale over time.
The Pandolfini family still runs the Biscottificio Mattei today, and now they have celebrated its 160 years of activity by opening a small museum/shop in the heart of Florence, at Via Porta Rossa, 76. In this welcoming, almost domestic space, where simplicity and elegance reign, it is possible to visit the historical archive of the Biscottificio Mattei and the Pandolfini family, with records, photographs, memorabilia and the packaging of yesteryear.
The space includes a small shop where you can purchase and taste all the Biscottificio’s products; in addition to the cantucci, these include “Filone Candito”, “Torta Mantovana” and “Brutti Buoni”, to name but a few. Enthusiasts can accompany the Mattei products with a good cup of coffee provided by the Antica Torrefazione Padovani di Prato, while the sacrosanct combination of “Cantucci and Vin Santo” is guaranteed by the wines of the Marchesi Antinori, traditional partners of Mattei for over 50 years now.