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Venetian pastry- stores : the meaning of the word “scaleter”

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

On some inscriptions on the walls in Venice, you read the word “scaleter”. It means there were pastry- stores in the neighborhood.

In the local dialect the word “scaleter” meant pastry chef and it came from the cakes that looked like waffles (scalete). They were imprinted with marks like steps on a ladder and were made with bread, butter and sugar.

The “scalete”

It took a number of years to become a pastry chef: four years of apprenticeship and 6 years of work at the same pastry-store. He had to prove his skills by taking a tough exam, which would allow him to start his own business. The last step required to be in good standing was to join the guild.

The guild of the “scaleteri” was born in 1493, and its members met in different churches but especially at San Fantin. ( the church facing the Teatro la Fenice).

At the beginning of the 1600 hundred the pastry-shops were counted in the number of 42 out of which 38 were in the hands of the Swiss. They started working as peddlers and then little by little they had the monopoly of this business.

In 1766 the Swiss community was expelled from the city because of the stipulation of a treaty between the Grisons and Austrians in favor of Milan and to the detriment of the Serenissima.

This event put an end to their dominance in this business.

A wide range of pastry

In any case Venice did not count and does not count a particular dessert like many other Italian cities and regions. Due to its maritime traditions, it favored small and dry dishes in the kitchen, which lasted much longer, did not perish and were nutritious.

In Venice, you can find in any pastry-shop, even the simplest a wide range of pastry, cakes and biscuits.

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