It is a lazy Sunday in Urbino, Italy, but for Roberto Borfecchia this day means an outing with his father to get cresce, a dense but thin and flaky flatbread that is a hallmark of this city’s cuisine.
When Borfecciha was a child, the father-son trek for cresce was a special treat. “Now cresce reminds me of summer because that is when I usually eat it,” says Borfecchia.
Now found in most Urbino restaurants, cresce originally was considered the poor man’s bread because farmers were able to take it out to the fields with them. The food is rich and easy to preserve, making it the perfect meal for laborers.
The bread consists of flour, water, lard, eggs and pepper. The lard gives the bread its flaky and crunchy exterior while keeping it soft and chewy on the inside. The food was normally eaten alone, but now it is common to find the bread served with prosciutto and cheese or other ingredients to make it a more bountiful meal.
For Antonio Fabi cresce brings back memories of high school. After a festival was over the cresce would be sold for 50 lire instead of 100 lire. Fabi and his high school friends would run over after school and enjoy the afternoon snack. “I just love the ingredients!” said Fabi.
One of the first restaurants in Urbino to sell cresce was Il Ragno d’Oro. The cafe was established in 1946 after WWII. Using only the finest ingredients, the cresce at this quaint cafe is made fresh before your eyes. What makes this cresce special is the tender care used to make the discs of dough. Each piece is rolled by well experienced hands and the knowledge of a 100-year tradition. The oil added to the recipe gives the dough more flavor.
Fresh cresce filled with cheese and prosciutto, a type of Italian ham, sells for 4 euro. Barbara Serafini, a young woman with short dark hair, works behind the counter at Il Ragno d’Oro. When asked if she likes cresce, her eyes light up with excitement as she exclaimed “Molto!”
“My grandmother would make it when I was a child. She would give me small amounts of dough so I could make mini cresce,” said Serafini.
The idea of mass producing cresce did not evolve until the 21st century. Paolo Gerardi and his fiance at the time met a man working in the supermarket business. They teamed up and established Il Panaro, the first factory to mass-produce cresce in April 2001. Today Il Panaro produces 4,000 to 6,000 pieces of cresce per day.
The factory delivers the bread to supermarkets, cafes and the University of Urbino. Although the factory distributes cresce all over Italy, especially northern Italy, the bread is still considered a trademark of Urbino cuisine.
“We have 15 employees here at the factory,” says Gerardi. “Only the women make cresce because they are more skilled with their hands and have less hair on their arms. However, we do have a boy that delivers the cresce.”
Not only has the factory created jobs in this classic Renaissance town, but it has also brought cresce to the masses.
When made fresh the cresce melts in your mouth. The crunchy exterior and the soft interior filled with ham and cheese make this a tasty and popular meal in Urbino. It is also an easy meal for those Sundays that you just don’t feel like cooking. This typical food can be found at local supermarkets in Urbino, as well as most cafes in the city.