Ask Italians: What Is the Best Panettone in LA?
An all-Italian contest to find the best panettone in town
As Christmas approaches, it is time to shop for panettone. Los Angeles offers many options, so which one should you get? We asked a panel of picky Italians to help us find the best panettone in town.
Searching for the best panettone
To select the best panettone in LA, first we consulted some Facebook groups of Italian expats to see which brands they recommend and where they buy them. Then, we got six imported panettones from various specialty stores around the city. We kept it simple: classic panettone only (no chocolate chips, no almonds, no custard filling etc.), $30 or less. There are more expensive brands, to be true, but we are trying to help panettone-addicts get their fix without breaking the bank.
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The six candidates:
- Balocco. Il Panettone (1kg, $10)
- La Bella Valentina. Panettone (750g, $17)
- Loison. Panettone Classico (1kg, $13)
- Galup. Il Milano (750g, $26)
- Tre Marie. Il Panettone Milanese (1kg, $19)
- Bauli. Il Panettone di Milano (1kg, $13)
We sneaked into a holiday get-together of Italian expats, hosted by Bettolino Kitchen in Redondo Beach, and organized a blind tasting of panettone samples, asking Italians to rank their top three. It was the end of a two-hour long meal, everybody already had their dessert and claimed they were full…yet they were happy to participate!
And the winner is…
Two brands got the most votes in our panel:
- Galup, Il Milano: Often ranked first or second, it was “nice and soft”, and the “just the right amount of moist.” Given that this is a high-end industrial panettone (the most expensive in our list), it should not come as a surprise. You can find Galup at Guidi Marcello, in Santa Monica, and Monsieur Marcel at the Original Farmers Market on 3rd Street.
- Balocco, Il Panettone: A much more affordable option, the Balocco was somewhat of an unexpected winner. People described it as “good overall” and having the “classic taste of panettone”. Balocco is available in various stores, including Cost Plus World Market, Eagle Rock Italian Bakery, and Monte Carlo Deli.
Special mention to Loison, Panettone Classico, which ranked third. Available at Eagle Rock Italian Bakery and Deli and the two locations of Eatalian Group.
It is not just a matter of taste, of course. Judging from what is reported on its package, Galup uses high-quality ingredients, which probably explains the higher price. Cocoa butter, honey, and barley malt extract might be the secret to Galup’s success, versus the unspecified “natural and artificial flavors” listed on the Balocco.
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On a side note, Balocco also sells a 100gr chocolate chip panettone that tastes very dry…So do not assume that a brand can guarantee consistent quality across different products.
Sadly, only two stores in LA seem to offer in-house baked panettone. Eagle Rock Italian Bakery and Deli makes a traditional panettone, and Eatalian Café used to make a chocolate chip panettone. Next year we are definitely going to include them in the tasting.
According to our all-Italian panel, these are the panettone brands that you should bring to your table this year. Personally, I guess I will splurge on Balocco at home, and bring a nice Galup to my next dinner party. But, as Italians would say, “i gusti son gusti” (i.e. tastes are just tastes), so let us know which one is your favorite panettone. And of course, make sure you have enough to get through the holiday season!