Symbol of Modica, the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily still in operation and one of the oldest in Italy, Bonajuto has been handcrafting its chocolate for 6 generations.
The picturesque alley where the Dolceria is located, a few steps from the famous Modica Baroque Cathedral, is perhaps the busiest street for gourmands from all over the world. And considering that the “fattojo di cioccolata” has remained almost unchanged and in the same place for 150 years, this statement may not even differ much from reality.
The history of the renowned Modica chocolate begins in the second half of the 18th century when the notary Vincenzo Bonajuto, who later became County Prosecutor at the Palermo court, settled in the city, then part of the Kingdom of Sicily.
Antica Dolceria Bonajuto is an ambassador of Sicilian gastronomic culture in the world: a story and an entrepreneurial vision but above all an extraordinary human adventure.
His premature death will push his son Francesco Ignazio to invest the inherited capital in various commercial activities, including a haberdashery and an ice cream shop equipped with a “fattojo del ciccolatte”, a machine with which from the cocoa beans the finished product was fabricated. In 1854, the Fattojo was inherited by his son Federico who would concentrate on the activities of chocolatier and ice cream maker.
It was Francesco Bonajuto, the fourth generation of the family, who gave the first major turning point to the business: in 1880 he founded the company “F. Bonajuto” creating, alongside the historic confectionary production laboratory in Corso Umberto I, an elegant café which it will soon become a point of reference for city social life. Driven by his great managerial and communication skills, “Don Ciccio” also expanded the production offer, investing in personnel training, and bought advertising space in local newspapers, so much so that he won the gold medal at the International Agricultural Industrial Exhibition in Rome in 1911.
Upon his death, it was his wife Carmela Di Martino who took control of the company together with Carmelo Ruta, boyfriend of Francesco’s adopted daughter Rosa, until the 1990s when his son Franco and his nephew Pierpaolo took over the management of the confectionary, starting a process of recovery of the “cold processed chocolate”. In fact, this processing method seemed destined to disappear as, with the Industrial Revolution, new processes such as conching and tempering had become popular (to make the crystals and chocolate particles as fine as possible) which consequent change in their taste and texture.
The cold processing of cocoa is the direct descendant of that used by the Mesoamerican populations and spread in Europe through the Spanish “conquistadores” in the 16th century. At a temperature between 45 and 50 degrees, the cocoa mass is combined with the sugar so that the latter does not melt and remains in the form of crystals, giving the chocolate a characteristic “rough” appearance.
In homage to tradition, the historic Dolceria on Corso Umberto I still sells the bars of the first recipes created by Bonajuto; the chocolate with cinnamon and the vanilla one, which won the 1911 International Exhibition, as well as many other original delights such as the Salinae Chocolate, with salt from the Mozia saline, or the Donkey Milk Chocolate.
In addition to the chocolate bars, here you can find many other traditional sweets such as cannoli, cassatine and almond biscuits, produced fresh every day and garnished one by one by hand in the laboratory. Do not miss the chocolate cups, water-based, made with Xicara, a preparation developed together with Chef Vincenzo Candiano with sugar, cocoa mass and locust bean flour that can be drunk, hot in winter and cold in summer, as per rite in the small tables in front of the Dolceria.
While for a full experience in the world of Bonajuto chocolate, you can book a visit with tasting at the adjacent Fattojo Bonajuto where it is possible to watch the Bean To Bar processing, from cocoa beans, chosen among the best in the world, to the bar.
Since 2018 the denomination “Cioccolato di Modica” is exclusively reserved for the PGI product; Antica Dolceria Bonajuto has decided not to comply with the specification – mainly to strictly adhere to the ancient recipes which did not include added flavourings, other than cinnamon and vanilla, or the possibility of tempering the chocolate – and therefore its product can no longer be defined “of Modica”.
In 1992 in Modica there were only 3 artisans who produced chocolate as per tradition: Carmelo Ruta, Francesco Bonajuto’s son-in-law, and two other pastry chefs who had learned the basics of confectionary art by working in the Bonajuto’s shop.