Eighteen years after moving to Los Angeles, I still get nostalgic at Christmastime for my annual trek to North Beach, wandering into the Italian butcher, the deli, the focaccia place, the espresso bar -- and just before going home, picking up the season's panettone from one of the surviving Italian bakeries there.
Here in L.A., finding the perfect panettone is more problematic. But I have a solution: Corti Brothers in Sacramento, which this year is getting in just shy of 20 different panettones from two traditional producers, Bardi in Piemonte and Loison bakery in the Veneto, which dates from 1938.
The typical panettone features the traditional candied citrus and dried fruits, but these bakers make more elaborate versions with Amarene candied cherries, Calabrian Dottato figs or raisins soaked in sweet Torcolato wine. This year, there are a couple of new versions filled with pastry or lemon cream.
Most weigh in at a kilo (2.2 pounds) and prices range from $28 to $38, though they also have very small (100 grams for $8.99) and very large (10 kilograms for $237, if you want to make an impression at a big party).