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I lived in Italy for a short while when my dad was sent there for work. I was about 16 the first time I landed at Fiumicino, and, despite having read about grand emperors and popes and experiencing the city through the eyes of Fellini and the black-and-white speckled film starring Audrey Hepburn, I did not know what to expect.
My memories of Rome smell like wet rain and the emerald green face wash I was using at the time, sound like madly buzzing wasps, resemble a small painting I saw long, long ago, and taste like pizza bianca from the forno at Campo dei Fiori and most particularly, like a sugar cone with a bouffant of Baci gelato.
Baci (kisses) are Perugina brand chocolates made with gianduja—chocolate containing hazelnut paste. The combination is deliciously intoxicating. A single bacio really is very much like a kiss—that mouthful-sized orb of airy chocolate speckled with bits of chopped hazelnut with a whole hazelnut for a nucleus seduces as it melts. Ensconced in a shell of dark chocolate, the bacio is fancifully wrapped in foil printed with a small firmament of blue stars.
This cake, with its tiers of moist chocolate cake refreshed with hazelnut liqueur and airy drifts of chocolate, Nutella, and toasted hazelnut mousse, transport me to the memory of a small bowl of Baci in the living room, the damp chill of Rome that winter, and a feeling of watching a version of myself in that singular setting.
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