Bedonia was buzzing with excitement this morning.
Saturday is market day, the busiest time of the week around here, and a new shop was about to open its doors to the public. Big deal, you might say! Shops open all the time……well first of all, thanks to the pandemic, we have seen more than one shutter sadly lowered, never to be lifted again. Many empty spaces glare out from where flourishing businesses once stood.
Secondly, this was not just any old shop. It represents a coming back to roots for the owner, and better still – a gesture of goodwill towards his fellow townsmen.
Thirdly, the theme – chocolate! Like something out of a film, Marco Biolzi has come back to offer Bedonia his artisanal goodies, in the hope of spreading a little happiness!
But let’s start at the beginning: this is definitely a case of family DNA, where passion has been handed down from one generation to the next, and it all started with aunt Teresa. She used to make “canestrello” (the traditional cake with a hole in the centre), with live yeast, and sell it to the townsfolk from home. In those days (the thirties), a pastry shop wasn’t even contemplated, and aunty would go about her business right in her own kitchen! Marco’s father, her nephew, also inherited the urge to bake, therefore he was packed off to catering school, and gained precious experience in Germany and Switzerland, in some very prestigious patisseries around Lake Lindau.
Then came the move to New Jersey, where Mr Biolzi Senior ran a pastry shop, and where Marco and his two brothers were born. Other members of the family were over there too, and all were involved in the catering business in one way or another. When Marco was 7, the time had come to return to the homeland, and as soon as he was old enough, he began to work with his father in the “pasticceria” which the family opened in 1979 in Bedonia. At that point, the urge to bake and create was also stirring in HIM! So, with all the basic concepts already mastered thanks to dad, he too was packed off to attend courses and look towards a future as a Master Pastry Chef.
He and his father collaborated together as a team, and the shop was always a sight for sore eyes! The selection of pastries and biscuits was awesome, and their cakes were mouth-watering, as well as beautiful to behold. There was no doubting the family talent when you walked in there! Marco became an expert in his own right, and in 2005 organized the first chocolate festival “CioccolaTaro” ( our area is in the Taro Valley) which summoned stands from all parts of Italy and abroad to Bedonia. It was an enormous success, and in later years, he went on to organize similar events at Medesano, near Parma, too. He remarked that the organization of these fairs opened up a whole new world to him, and although he didn’t know it yet, the experience would mark his path.
Unfortunately, as so often happens, the family went through a bad patch, with ailing parents and other personal problems. Marco coped as well as he could without the assistance of his father, but in 2013, with a heavy heart, he decided to close the pasticceria and take a different course of action. Bedonia was left without sweet goodies…
And this is where everything changed; he left to travel around Europe, and thanks to the contacts he had made during the fair experiences, and to his professional expertise in the field, he began to set himself up as a touring chocolatier. He discovered a whole new way of life he had never imagined before – and loved it! He travelled to Germany, Belgium, France and Malta with his vans, selling his artisanal chocolate products in fairs, and it was during one of the passages through Germany that he met his current partner in life, Giulia.
Now, wherever he stations, he can count on a dozen or so people to help him at the stand, different people in every place – a sort of european network of assistants. He regularly spends the eight colder months touring with chocolate, whilst in the four remaining warmer months, his alter ego takes over – Tony Bruschetta comes out of the closet! In this period, Marco/Tony concentrates on street-food, serving bruschetta (excellent bread from Altamura, sun-kissed tomatoes from the south, carefully selected extra-virgin olive oil of the best quality), and other such savoury delicacies.
So, in the light of all this touring success – where does Bedonia come in? Well, Marco told us that a very interesting proposal had been brought to his attention – ample premises in a very advantagious position in Genova. But faced with the possibility of setting up something new, he made his choice; he decided to bring a little sweetness back to the town of his childhood, where his roots still lie, and where his journey as an expert chocolate maker began……Genova can wait! Once the decision had been made, the new premises found, the interior restructured and decorated with a lovely hand-painted, cocoa tree frescoe, Marco only had to get his ice cream machinery going again, and fill the counter and walls with the delicious products of his making.
These products include; all kinds of chocolate bars, pralines, truffles, a dark chocolate spread ……and he told us that a chocolate liqueur is currently in the works, so we can look forward to tasting that! And then of course, the counter is a triumph of fresh ice cream, made with the best quality ingredients. On accompanying Marco back to his little cove of goodies after our chat, a comical scene made us laugh – the church steps opposite the shop were crammed with customers happily slurping at their cones and shouting compliments between one lick and another! For a moment it felt as though we were looking at tourists in front of Saint Peter!
We think we can safely say that the goodwill is already spreading!