If there is any person in the United States who understands how much Americans – or really, people all over the world – love Nutella, it is Allison Robicelli, who along with her husband, Matt, owns the New York bakery Robicelli’s.
Allison Robicelli created Nutelasagna, the Nutella dessert heard round the world. It was a dish they made as a joke last summer and brought back for the holidays, when the craziness ensued. Lines formed at 8 a.m. Pans and slices sold out quickly. Stories appeared in New York, Great Britain, the Balkans, even Italy – the home of the company that makes the beloved chocolate hazelnut spread. Last Thursday, the Ferrero company president traveled to Brooklyn to meet the Robicellis.
“The president says it became a media phenomenon,” Allison Robicelli said last week during a phone interview. She added: “I’m a god in Italy.”
The chocolate-hazelnut spread was a popular snack food in Europe and elsewhere before being exported to the United States 25 years ago. Our love affair with this sweet treat has only grown. Case in point: Jif introduced its own version three years ago.
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Pastry chef Jossie Perlmutter, at Charlotte’s fine dining restaurant The Asbury, realized the power of Nutella several years ago when she added a Nutella cupcake to a restaurant menu. (The Asbury’s menu currently features a chocolate, hazelnut and mango dessert.)
“Anytime I combine chocolate and hazelnuts, people just went nuts,” Perlmutter said. “Those were the highest-selling desserts.”
The inspiration for Nutelasagna was Allison Robicelli’s frustration with the media declaring every dessert as “the new cupcake.” So she and her staff decided to hold an eight-week “Jump the Shark” summer when they would promote other desserts as the “new cupcake,” like green Jell-o, Norwegian waffles and noodle kugel. The last one inspired Nutelasagna. Her version combines layers of fresh lasagna noodles, cannoli cream, toasted hazelnuts, Nutella ganache and homemade marshmallows.
The best thing about making Nutelasagna is you can make it your own. Like the savory version, Robicelli says, “There’s not many hard rules with lasagna.”
So why does Robicelli think we are so fascinated by this chocolate-hazelnut treat? She says: “It’s peanut butter for grown-ups.”