Guide to Italian hostess gifts: It is difficult to learn and show good manners and etiquette in a foreign country.
In our part of Italy people normally bring a gift of cakes for coffee, when invited to dinner. The cakes have to be of a special kind, bought in a pasticceria by weight, and the norm is half a kilogram or the equivalent of a medium sized tray.
In the shop you get to choose between ‘secca’ or ‘pasta di mandorla’ which is the common name for dry and not particularly popular almond cakes, and ‘con crema’, which are elegant small cakes of choux pastry, almonds or cannelloni stuffed with chocolate, cream or ricotta. These delicious cakes are placed in intricate patterns on a golden paper tray and wrapped in paper nicely folded with carrying handles. The gift should make a good impression when opened in the hostess’ kitchen.
After opening the present from the pasticceria, the hosts and the other guests will take pains to point out which cakes, they each do not like, while they discuss why a pasticceria at the other end of town is much better. In the end the cakes are pushed aside in the assumption that nobody can eat another bite after having partaken of a full meal. The Italians, I know, cannot be accused of ‘finta cortesia’. Their politeness is never pretended, and that makes their behaviour really out of sync with good Danish manners.
Italian hostess gifts and other notes on Italian culture