You don’t have to be Italian to indulge in a slice of panettone during the holidays.
In Italy, this sweet, cake-like, dome-shaped bread is a traditional Christmas and New Year dessert. With bespoke wrappings, it’s also an uber-popular gift for families, friends, and colleagues.
Born in Milan, “panettone” is derived from the Italian word “panetto” (little loaf), the term made larger with the addition of the suffix “one” (the plural form is panettoni.) According to legend, the seasonal bread is said to be a harbinger of luck and prosperity.
Like so many other Italian products and traditions, panettone migrated to the U.S., Canada, and South America with successive waves of Italian immigrants. And the popularity of panettone among Italians and non-Italians has soared. Last year (2022), The New York Times reported that pastry trade group Conpait estimated annual panettone sales (artisanal and commercial) at $650 million.
Even in its motherland, foods and breads tend to differ from region to region, and from town to town, and the same holds true for panettone. Different bakers often put an innovative spin on the classic by adding or substituting regional ingredients.
As a result, there is a panettone to please almost every palate. Here are a few appealing options, perfect for gift-giving or to enjoy at home.
(Note: Many of these artisanal producers only bake limited quantities for the holidays so order early and allow time for delivery. These panettoni can also be a great addition to Thanksgiving dinners.)
For the first time, Eataly, the global Italian superstore, has launched its own private-label line of panettone and pandoro. (Pandoro is another classical Italian Christmas specialty baked in the shape of a star).
The new products were created by a team of Eataly gastronomic experts steeped in the traditions of Milano and Verona. They are baked using the finest authentic ingredients—including dough made with lievito madre (mother yeast), IGP hazelnuts sourced from the Langhe) and butter made from Piemontese cream.
The collection comes in four flavors: Classico, Pistachio Cream, Orange & Chocolate and the iconic pandoro. Priced at $59, they complement the food retailer’s wide selection of more than 40 imported artisanal panettoni.
Brera Milano 1930
Brera Milano 1930, a confectionary located in the heart of Milano, was founded by Angelo Grioni in 1905. After his son joined him in the 1930s, the family-owned business began focusing on panettoni.
Made with natural yeast that takes at least 30 hours to rise, this Milanese classic is packaged in an attractive, vintage blue box. Perfect as a dessert after dinner or an afternoon snack, panettone makes delicious French toast (for those few who still have leftovers). Pairing suggestions include fresh berries, whipped cream, and/or dark chocolate.
Available from Eataly, the classic Brera Milano panettone retails for $69.90.
Located between Verona and Vicenza, Italian bakery Olivieri 1882 has been honing its panettone for over a century. The family-run pasticceria – currently helmed by sixth-generation baker Nicola Olivieri – calls upon a 140-year-old recipe to concoct the beloved holiday staple.
Made of hand-selected raw ingredients with a meticulous four-day production process, Olivieri’s signature panettone is elegant, rich, and highly digestible. The special occasion breads are delivered freshly baked in the US within 48 hours and are shipped worldwide.
Choose from the Panettone Classico (priced at $75), which is thick in Australian 5 crown raisins, candied oranges, and Tahitian bourbon vanilla, or opt for one of the other bestsellers, including flavors like Apricot and Salted Caramel, Triple Chocolate, and Gianduja. The panettoni are sold on the Olivieri website and also on Goldbelly.
Giuseppe Giusti has been producing balsamic vinegar in Modena (Emilia Romagna) since 1605. CEO Claudio Stefani Giusti, a 17th-generation member of the Giusti family, now leads the company, the oldest vinegar producer in Italy. Winners of 10 Gold Awards, the vinegars are produced in the same family casks used for over 400 years, preserving his forbearers’ exacting production and preservation traditions.
Beautifully wrapped in a rustic, traditional style, the Giusti panettone recipe is made from all-natural ingredients—strictly fresh and authentic.
In an innovative twist, this panettone is extra special with the addition of Giusti balsamic vinegar to the dough, used to soak the raisins and as a cream filling. The sweet and sour taste of the vinegar perfectly complement the fragrant softness of the panettone. It can be purchased on the Giusti U.S. website for $45, or in-store at Eataly and at a number of gourmet food shops.
Albertengo panettone is produced in the town of Torre San Giorgio in the Piedmont region, at the base of the Italian Alps. What started as a small village bakery in 1905 grew into a larger company now run by the fourth generation of the family.
In 1988, the family of bakers decided to focus on a single product: panettone. They work closely with long-standing producers who supply their raw materials and source IGP Piedmont hazelnuts from Albertengo’s family farm in Langhe (to make the icing and decorate the cakes).
Gourmet food importer iGourmet offers a mouth-watering variety of traditional and specialty panettoni including ones laced with chocolate, lemon, peaches, Moscato, peaches and chocolate, and Amerena cherries and chocolate. All these creations combine the fresh bread’s traditional aroma and delicate, sweet scent. Elegant wrapping, attractive ribbons, and decorative labels add aesthetic charm. The two-pound Albertengo Moscato panettone ($61.99) is beautifully attired in a keepsake scarf.
Closer to home, Settepani has been a popular, family-run bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for over thirty years. No surprise this family and its founder, Chef Nino Settepani, became bakers. In Italian, the word settepani translates directly to “seven breads.”
Chef Nino immigrated to the Italian-American neighborhood as a young boy. But recently, the chef’s daughter Bilena, an accomplished pastry chef, was honored with the “Miglior Pasticceri del Mondo” award by the esteemed Maestro Iginio Massari for her exceptional dedication to the art of Italian pastries, specifically her panettone creation.
The Instagram-worthy pistachio panettone (priced at $89.45) is flavored with honey and orange, and dotted with pistachios and candied citrus. New Yorkers can visit the bakery, and ordering is available nationwide on Goldbelly for this and other Settepani pannetoni.
The Sant Ambroeus brand dates back to 1936 when two pastry chefs opened a cafe in Milan steps from La Scala, the famous opera house. It soon turned into a popular meeting place for visitors and locals. Since that time, the hospitality group has created restaurants, coffee bars, and a gelateria in New York City, Southampton, and Palm Beach.
The limited-production Sant Amboeus panettone is prepared according to the classic recipe with candied orange, citron, lemon zest, and raisins.
It comes packaged in signature Sant Ambroeus wrapping paper ($55) or can be purchased in a beautiful pink hat box with a scalloped-edge detail, gold foil logo, and unexpected sky-blue interior ($95).