Enrico Biscotti: “Simple, Fresh, Authentic”

By Michael Clark

The weather is brisk. Raindrops trickle down from the gutters into a small alleyway lined with misshapen bricks, into the café. A tall, well-dressed man with salt-andpepper hair sits calmly at a small table, no more than a foot away from two ladies enjoying a glass of red wine. A small leather-bound book rests on the table with a pair of keys on top.

“Hey, how are you?” Larry Lagatutta asks, in his blended Italian-Pittsburgh accent, as he looks up from his phone.

Lagatutta is the proprietor of Enrico Biscotti, a small bakery and cafe on Penn Avenue. The bakery was founded in 1993. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Lagatutta first grew interested in cooking by watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen.

“I cooked with them,” Lagatutta says. “There was always something going on in the kitchen in my house and I always wanted to be in the mix.”

While Lagatutta is indeed a master of the art of bread making and despite his childhood interest in cooking, baking isn’t how he expected to make a living.

Larry Lagatutta, owner of Enrico Biscotti/Photo by Fred Blauth

Larry Lagatutta, owner of Enrico Biscotti/Photo by Fred Blauth

“I was an account executive for 15 years,” Lagatutta says, like it is nothing worth remembering. A chance encounter with a bread maker led him to change the course of his life.

“I met a baker from Tuscany, who was in Pittsburgh at the time, and offered to help him as a night baker. I can remember staying up for hours through the night making bread and waking up watching the sunrise over Pittsburgh. I always enjoyed it.”

As one could imagine, all that practice helped. Today, five bakers working in rotation at Enrico Biscotti knead, shape and mold a whopping 1,200 pounds of dough every day. They work in the back of the bakery, behind the mounds of breads and mouth-watering pastries. Customers love to watch them.

Biscotti literally translated means “twice baked cookie” and it’s delicious. So it should come as no surprise that biscotti is the top-seller at the bakery. Macaroons are a close second.

What’s the tastiest treat at Enrico Biscotti?

Lagatutta has to think about it for a moment, but finally puts his hand to his chin and narrows down his favorites.

“There are so many,” he says. “Fig pecan biscotti are great. The buckeyes are delicious and so are the chocolate radicals.”

Not to be confused with a resident of Ohio, a “buckeye” is a tasty peanut butter confection dipped in chocolate, while a “chocolate radical” is a flourless chocolate cookie.

Now, what makes the biscotti so special at this particular bakery?

“Well, it’s my grandmother’s recipe,” Lagatutta says. “She had a craftsman’s mentality. We only use the freshest ingredients. I make them exactly how she made them and there is no difference between then and now.”

When asked to summarize Italian cooking in one sentence, Lagatutta proudly replies: “Simple, fresh and authentic. And did I mention simple?”

For those interested in creating their own crusty creations, the biggest misconception about bread making is the notion that it’s complicated.

Photo by Fred Blauth

Photo by Fred Blauth

“Bread has four ingredients. Flour, salt, yeast and water. If you know your way around a kitchen, you’ll be fine.”

Lagatutta loves his job. You can see it in his eyes.

A wide smile crosses his face every time the opportunity to discuss food presents itself. He passionately stresses the importance of human nature and why being a successful baker is so enjoyable.

“I love getting up and making bread early in the morning,” Lagatutta says. “I love seeing the customers happy and the fact that knowing what we make will end up in people’s homes and affecting their numerous celebrations. That’s my favorite part about what I do.”