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Forget No-Sugar -- Gimme 'Sfogliatelle'

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

As an expansive American, commentator Daniel Pinkwater has a taste for good food. Lately, he's moderated his consumption, with an exception.

DANIEL PINKWATER reporting:

I have lost about 100 pounds over the last couple of years, more or less effortlessly. I didn't set out to lose weight, don't care about it, and long-ago concluded that diets don't work over time. My wife decided to clean up her dietary act, eliminating all starches, fatty meats and sweets, and bearing down very heavily on tons of fresh produce. I went along with it just to keep her company, and lo, I'm lighter.

I'm telling you this to make the point that I am pretty much a sugar-free individual, with this important exception. In Poughkeepsie, New York, there is an establishment known as La Deliciosa Bakery. It's a time warp. You walk in the door and it is 50 years ago and you are in a neighborhood in New York or Philadelphia or Boston or someplace.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, La Deliciosa has sfogiatelle. Sfogiatelle is a crunchy, chewy pastry looking exactly like a big clam, and filled with ricotta and bits of citron. Amazing warm from the oven and also amazing cold. One of these with a cup of coffee is proof of the existence of God, or at least an excuse for the human race to exist. I think sfogiatelle means many leaves or layers. People know about them because they've been mentioned on several occasions on The Sopranos.

Sfogiatelle originated in Naples, Italy, and they are thought to have been perfected in convents because their making is so time-consuming, or maybe because of the God connection I mentioned.

I found a reference to them on the Internet. The writer said it was the single most difficult recipe he or she had ever attempted. I think the correct pronunciation is something like sfogiatelle. Sfogiatelle is a Sicilian dialect pronunciation. It's spelled S-F-O-G-L-I-A-T-E-L-L-E, but you don't spell them. You eat them - if you are very, very fortunate.

BLOCK: Daniel Pinkwater treats himself to the occasional sfogliatelle in New York's Hudson River Valley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Pinkwater