Both Chiostro di Saronno and Matilde Vicenzi are legends when it comes to Italian confectionery, be it traditional Italian cookies or more novel pastries unique to their line-ups.
In the article below, we’ll be breaking down how the products these companies put on the market compare to each other and which one is a better start for a newbie consumer.
What is Chiostro di Saronno?
Chiostro di Saronno is an Italian baked goods company. It’s one of the two brands under Italian food and drinks giant Lazzaroni & Figli. Lazzaroni & Figli production line is divided into three distinct parts: Amaretto liqueur, cookies, and traditional festive cakes (Panettone and Colomba). The other brand Lazzaroni, concentrates on the Amaretto liqueur, keeping the alcohol separate from the Chiostro di Saronno brand, which is in charge of the bakery.
The story of Paolo Lazzaroni & Figli S.P.A. as it is known today (and with it, Chiostro di Saronno) started in 1927. That said, it can be argued that the company’s history goes back much further. See, Lazzaroni & Figli was merely a consolidation of the family’s long-standing food production efforts.
The one who started it all was Carlo Lazzaroni. Born in 1774, Carlo started with Amaretto liqueur production at the beginning of the 19th century. The family focused on that for the next fifty or so years. But in 1869, one of his sons, Paolo, expanded his efforts into confectionery production, establishing the first of the two Lazzaroni companies in Saronno. Then, in 1888, the children of his brother (Carlo’s other son) Davide established a second company (D. Lazzaroni & C). So, by the time the pivotal year of 1927 rolled around, the Lazzaroni family already owed two food and drink companies, each with more than half a century’s worth of history on the market. They simply decided that combining the two and trimming down the production line would be best for the future.
The newly established Lazzaroni & Figli focused solely on two products: grandpa Carlo’s original Amaretto Lazzaroni 1851 (did you know that the famous almond liqueur was born in Saronno? Now you do) and traditional Italian cookies.
The company headquarters is based in, fittingly, Saronno, a comune of Lombardy, in the province of Varese. “Chiostro di Saronno” means "Cloister of Saronno" in Italian. It’s an old Franciscan cloister in the center of Saronno, where the company’s seat is currently located.
Over the next fifty years, the company steadily expanded, attracting the attention of both cookie connoisseurs and potential investors.
In 1984, the biscuit-producing branch of the company was sold to an American company Campbell, though subsequently, the management of what was left of Lazzaroni & Figli decided to simply resume the.
In the early 90s, Paolo Lazzaroni (the namesake of his liqueur-making grandfather who started the entire Lazzaroni food-making business) built an industrial plant in Saronno and, with the expanded manufacturing capabilities, developed the production and product line-up, as well.
Nowadays, Chiostro di Saronno is one of the most recognizable Italian confectionery brands, though they’re primarily known for their festive cakes instead of cookies. While Chiostro di Saronno is most invested in traditional Amaretti cookies, it must be mentioned that a large portion of their cookie assortment consists of regional specialties that not many people have heard of outside Italy.
What is Matilde Vicenzi?
Matilde Vicenzi cookies and pastries are likely some of the world’s most recognizable Italian baked goods: the company exports its products to over 110 countries.
It’s hard to imagine that the story of Matilde Vicenzi, the baked goods giant, started in 1905 in a small artisanal bakery on the outskirts of Verona. It seems like the original Matilde, a passionate baker, was fine with her small shop and had no grand plans of expanding until her husband unexpectedly died. Now a widow who was the family’s sole breadwinner, her children’s fortunes depended entirely on her bakery.
The official Vicenzi website says what set her apart from all competitors (of whom there were many in Verona) was her special “woman’s touch.” They mean that Matilde baked each batch as she would bake for her own family. She focused on quality and taste, using only superior products, even when they were hard to come by or when cutting corners would seem like a smarter business move.
But her dedication to quality paid off. Soon enough, the demands for her oven-baked pastries and cookies exceeded her native city of Verona, reaching other corners of Italy and turning the small bakery into a profitable family business.
It’s no exaggeration when Matilde Vicenzi is called “a unique example of female entrepreneurship at the beginning of the century.” By all means, there were likely hundreds upon thousands of bakers dedicating themselves to the same products she did: traditional Italian cookies and pastries.
In 1946, Matilde’s son Angelo (who was running the bakery after her death) got Melzi, an automated machine for producing biscuits. He switched the company’s focus solely on the cookies, abandoning baking bread in the process. Thankfully, the gamble paid off.
But the true visionary industrialist of the family was Angelo’s son, Giuseppe. Deeply in love with the bakery, Giuseppe was always ready to take risks in order to improve the business, like going to England, not speaking a lick of the language, just to see what dry biscuit market practices were like.
In the 1960s, Giuseppe invested in a new plant that allowed him to fully automate his cookie production line. It allowed Giuseppe to 1) consolidate the market for Amaretti cookies, becoming one of the leaders in the segment; 2) increase production for the Ladyfinger cookies. And if Amaretti were the success sooner, Ladyfingers played the long game: today, the Vicenzovo Ladyfingers are considered one of the most “widespread” Savoiardi worldwide.
Giuseppe made the final step toward fully industrialized manufacturing in 1975 when he acquired a machine that could make Matilde’s famous 192-layer puff pastries.
Along with the Amaretti and Savoiardi cookies, the puff pastry snacks are Matilde Vicenzi’s most famous products to this day.
Which Brand Has More Options?
Chiostro di Saronno undoubtedly wins this category, though Matilde Vicenzi is no slouch, either. Chiostro di Saronno offers no less than half a dozen different types of just Amaretti cookies, plus half a dozen more regional specialties. The assortment includes both the classic Saronno-style crunchy and soft varieties, along with more unique flavored Amaretti.
Other notable entries include traditional Italian cookies like crunchy almond Cantuccini Biscotti (including Cantuccini Toscani IGP, a protected product), Canestrelli (Ligurian flower-shaped butter cookies), Baci di Dama (Piedmontese sandwich cookies), Brutti e Buoni (Gaviratese butter cookies with nuts), and Savoiardi.
Matilde Vicenzi also offers a range of traditional specialties, but its primary focus is on the more well-known classics: Amaretti, Cantuccini, and Savoiardi. Where Chiostro di Saronno is more interested in expanding the possibilities with regional specialties, most of Matilde Vicenzi’s assortment is made of its own specialties like various shortbread cookies (including the signature Ciambelle), cream-filled Grisbi cookies, and most notably, the puff pastry snacks. Though the latter isn’t precisely categorized as cookies, the round-shaped Tesoro and Bocconcini, as well as the flower-shaped Paradiso, can be argued to be close enough.
Which Brand Offers More Unique Flavors?
Chiostro di Saronno wins once again, though not by a wide margin. It seems like neither company is particularly interested in experimenting with unexpected flavors when it comes to their classics. Chiostro di Saronno scrapes by their flavored Amaretti line, which includes Lemon, Tangerine, Mixed Berry, Chocolate, Pistachio, Hazelnut, Rhum-Coffee, and Lemon-Pistachio flavors. To begin with, flavoring Amaretti isn’t particularly common, and the Mixed Berry, Rhum-Coffee, and Lemon-Pistachio flavors are definitely Chiostro di Saronno exclusives.
Matilde Vicenzi, on the other hand, keeps its classic assortment of flavors strictly traditional. In fact, the traditionality of these cookies is their selling point. The company proudly claims that the cookies are made following the original Matilde’s recipes (her 100+-year-old recipe book is now carefully guarded in the company museum!). While these cookies are unique in their own way, especially texture-wise (Matilde did have her secrets), the flavors remain the same, and there seems to be no intention to switch them up.
That is not to say that Matilde Vicenzi has nothing exciting to offer flavor-wise. Their Minivoglie Assorted Pastry is a collection of flavored shortbreads ranging from hazelnut and vanilla classics to more interesting chocolate-cherry, citrus, and spicy cinnamon. Grisbi cookies are another option for those who prefer heavily flavored cookies, though they stick to chocolate, hazelnut, lemon, and vanilla.
Which Brand is Better Overall?
As usual, it’s hard to say that one brand is 100% better than the other, considering there are many caveats to evaluating the product they produce. Let’s break each down into several categories:
- The Packaging
In this case, both brands seem to stand on equal footing. They both offer a more simple packaging, with a cardboard box (or plastic wrap for individually packaged cookies and snacks) and an assortment of gift tins as a more luxurious option.
Chiostro di Saronno prefers more elaborate, colorful packaging. Its cookie boxes are painted in loud shades (green, blue, yellow, and red) and sport vintage images of a boy with cookies.
Matilde Vicenzi, on the other hand, prefers a more simplistic design: a predominantly white box (or packet), with a broad golden (or, sometimes, orange) edge on one side, with a colorful depiction of the product the box contains on the white background.
That difference becomes starker when it comes to gift tins. Both companies have a substantially wide choice of luxury gift tins, and both maintain their coloring scheme, aside from a few exceptions. Most of Matilde Vicenzi’s tins sport colorful imagery of its products on a white background, while Chiostro di Saronno tins are brightly colored and sport the mascot.
- The History
Technically, Chiostro di Saronno is older than Matilde Vicenzi, though it depends on where we start the count. If long traditions are important to you, Chiostro di Saronno might hold more of your interest, as the Lazzaroni family has been in the confectionery business for about half a century longer than the Vicenzi family.
- The Flavors
When it comes to the classic flavors, we’d say the Matilde Vicenzi has a slight edge. There’s a reason why its Savoiardi are considered the #1 Savoiardi in Italy (it literally says so on the packet). The adherence to strict and high standards when it comes to their classics line is the main selling point of their Amaretti, Cantuccini, and Savoiardi.
On the other hand, when it comes to unique options, Chiostro di Saronno wins hands down. It’s unlikely that you’ll get a lot of chances to taste Lemon-Pistachio or Rhum-Coffee Amaretti cookies anywhere else. There’s also the added point of including other regional varieties in their assortment, like Baci di Dama and Brutti e Buoni.
- The Decorative Aspect
Both Matilde Vicenzi and Chiostro di Saronno luxury gift tins cast a wide net with this one. It truly depends on what you consider more suitable for the situation. For those who are looking for more understated, elegant options, Matilde Vicenzi tins would work best. If you wish to avoid outright depictions of the product inside the cans, you should check out their Italian Landscape Tins. Matilde Vicenzi also has a unique Celebration & Festivity line, with Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, and Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival) tins.
Chiostro di Saronno tins, on the other hand, will work best for those who love bright colors. If you wish to avoid outright product depictions, then there’s a line of “Retro Tins” decorated with vintage imagery. There’s also a line of landscape tins (though it’s not officially named as such).
Chiostro di Saronno gets an extra point for a few uniquely shaped tins. The collection includes a Van, a Red Limo, a Rabbit, and a (seasonal special) Christmas Door.
- The Price
Matilde Vicenzi wins this category, though with a small caveat.
Regarding comparable products, it seems that the prices are about the same. For example, a 7.1 oz (200g) of Vicenzi Amaretti cookies box costs around $3, and a 7.1 oz Chiostro di Saronno Crunchy Amaretti pack costs the same.
But the situation starts to differ when different packaging comes into play. For example, when we swap the Chiostro di Saronno plastic pack Amaretti for a cardboard box Amaretti, then the price triples at about $9 (keep in mind that the cardboard box weighs less at 5.3 oz or 150g).
Comparing luxury tins is even more complicated, considering different sizes, shapes, and the different baked goods assortments, but a cursory glance does prove that, overall, Chiostro di Saronno tins cost more.