PASTELARIA ALCOA – ALCOA PASTRY SHOP
Loosen your belt, it’s time for indulgence. Pastelaria Alcoa is a “stop in your tracks, you have to try this” pastry shop. Unless you’ve been to Portugal, you have never seen anything like it. They offer a selection of traditional Portuguese custard pastries that have been masterfully decorated – can they even be real?
The Alcoa on Rua Garret was a former tobacco shop, and still has the original antique tiles on the exterior — but walk inside and you find a modern pastry shop with clever lighting that draws the eye to the spectacular display of handcrafted masterpieces.
Many of the pastries in Portugal are known as “convent sweets” because the recipes originated in the convents or the monasteries. Egg whites were used to starch the nun’s habits leaving a surplus of egg yolks that were turned into custard pastries with the addition of cream and sugar. These were sold to the townspeople, thereby, creating revenue for the convents.
One of the iconic recipes at Alcoa is the “cornucopia” filled with custard arranged in an eye-catching display on the counter.
The Alcoa Pastry shop originated in Alcobaca, north of Lisbon, where the pastry makers use recipes that came from the 12th century Santa Maria de Alcobaca monastery in the town. The pastries created in their kitchens were exceptional and when they began to win prizes, the bakery became famous.
The basis for most of the pastries remains the custard… but it is the decorations that set them apart and have earned many accolades for the bakery.
Passing the window display of pastries on Rua Garrett, I was ‘compelled’ to go inside. Pastries were displayed in refrigerated cases, a sight that was mouthwatering and remarkable. They do not encourage people to linger, and try to keep the line moving.
So I lingered… totally hypnotized. Each pastry was a work of art. They were meticulously labeled with the name of the pastry, the prize it had won, and the year of the award. As these are convent pastries, they nearly all have convent names such as ‘Saint Peter,’ ‘Nun’s Bellies,’ and ‘Forbidden Love’ !! Did I say they were convent names? ……….. I want to know what was going on in that convent!
This needs to be on anyone’s Lisbon must-see list (to be converted into the must-taste list).