History of Pelino
The History of The “Confetti of Sulmona” and the Pelino House
White for weddings, silver for twenty-fifth anniversaries, sky-blue or pink for christenings,
red for graduations, green for engagements…smooth, textured, spherical, oval, teardrop, heart-shaped…with centers
of almonds, hazelnuts, anise seeds, cinnamon sticks, rosolio (a sweet old-fashioned liquor made of Tangerines), coffee beans,
peanuts, pistachios, marzipan, chocolate…in party favors, flower arrangements, fruit baskets and other constructions
of the confectioner's art and imagination.
These are just a few of the myriad colors, tastes, and shapes of Italian confetti, the little sugar-coated candies present
at every important occasion in Italian life. In their most classic form they are exactly the candies known as sugared
almonds, “Jordan almonds” or dragees. The generic name “confetti” has nothing to do with the
French and English word “confetti”, bits of colored paper, translated into Italian as “coriandoli”.
For the origin of confetti, we must look back to the ancient Romans,
who celebrated births and marriages with the distant ancestors of today’s confetti and began the tradition of the bomboniera. But until the renaissance
they – and other sweets – were made with honey. The introduction of sugarcane into European kitchens in
the XVth century marked the beginning of the modern era for confetti. In the renaissance, as in antiquity, confetti
were not just for ceremonial use. They were real sweetmeats made of candied fruits, or, as we learn from a manuscript
of 1504, with almonds, dried fruits, aromatic seeds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, or cinnamon, covered with a hard coating of sugar.
And they were habitually served not only at wedding banquets, but also at many important meals.
The fabrication of confetti began in Sulmona in the 15th century. In the same century,
the nuns of the Monastery of Santa Chiara began to utilize the confetti in the
preparation of flowers, grape bunches, wheat stalks, rosaries and baskets. It was at this point that the Confetti of Sulmona began to be marketed around the world - well known for their delicious
taste due to the purity of the sugar used in the production.
We find the first literary attestation of confetti in Boccaccio’s Decameron in the 1350’s. The earliest
testimonies of the high status and near-ritual use of confetti come from the late middle age and Renaissance. In 1487,
according to chronicles of the period, more than two hundred and sixty pounds of confetti were consumed at the banquet held
the day after the wedding of Lucrezia Borgi and Alfonso D’Este, son of Ercole I, Duke of Ferrara.
The use of confetti really began to spread through Italy during the late XVIIIth and early
XIXth centuries, when the first “modern” confetti factories appeared.
Sulmona, in the Abruzzo region, had been the famous home of confetti for three centuries: in 1783
it became the acknowledged capital of confetti thanks to the skill of a single family which manufactures confetti according
to a simple recipe that has remained unchanged.
The Confetti Mario Pelino factory, located in a XIXth century building
on via Introdacqua, is characterized by its typical chimney that sends forth the sweet scent of glazed
sugar. This establishment, which is responsible for the fame of confetti in Italy and the world, still has the patina
of the antique.
Fifty workers produce the little sweets on
machines that recollect the past. As a matter of fact, the Pelino’s confetti are made by a four-day-long process
that will never be completely industrialized. First, the centers of the candies (such as almonds, glazed fruits, chocolate,
liquor, anise seeds) are covered with sugar without the addition of starch, which would make them heavy and affect the flavor.
The confetti are still made today with only the almonds and the purest of sugar - no flour, lard or starch.
The best-known confetti
are those with almond centers, chosen from the finest Sicilian almonds (from
Avola, in the province of Siracusa). After having been peeled in a special
machine, the almonds are put in large rotating basins: liquefied sugar is poured in
gradually in order to lightly coat the almonds. At the end
of the day, the almonds must rest until the next
when operations resume.
All the members of the
Pelino family are occupied full-time in the activity, which makes them the custodians of the tradition started in 1783 in
the shop of Bernardino Pelino, and handed down from father to son (Penile, b. 1794, Francesco Paolo, b. 1833, Alfonso, b.
1853, Mario, b. 1892) to the present owners.
sons, Alfonso and Olindo, are slowly modernizing the entire enterprise, to uplift the confetti’s old image and publicize
their artisanal value. A series of initiatives have begun to safeguard traditions and make room for the new. For
example, the opening of a unique museum in the world. It shows the original machinery
used in the making of confetti, and is also used to archive old documents and give a historical account of the famous Sulmona
confetti. At the same time, the new is expressed in the modern selling techniques of opening up world-wide franchises
whereby the “Pelino” trademark is now being sold in Italy and all over the world. Confetti Pelino & Bomboniera USA is the
exclusive distribution of Confetti Pelino products in all of North America.
This is the Pelino tradition combining old and new while always guaranteeing the excellence of the product.
This excellence has assured that the Pelino factory was awarded 12 “Gran
Prix” and 21 gold medals.