MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Pasticceria Veniani Sas di Clerici Alessandro & C.

Historical Profile

The origins: The "Brutti e Buoni" and much more

Costantino Veniani was born in 1851 to a family of landowners in Ternate. From a young age, he learned the secrets the confectionery arts at Milan's most renowned confectioner's shops. In 1875, he purchased a horse swapping inn in Gavirate and, with the help of his wife Giuseppina Anderwill, transformed it into a café-confectioner's shop.

Since then, the name Veniani has been synonymous with the "Brutti e Buoni di Gavirate" (the Good and the Ugly of Gavirate), simple pastries made with hazelnuts and toasted almonds from an original recipe created by Costantino himself, who in 1878 obtained an "Industrial Property" certificate from the Kingdom of Italy's Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce: almonds from Avola, hazelnuts from Cuneo and central European flavours.

The locale was elegant, with the carefree atmosphere of the belle époque. Its customers were mainly well-known locals, but the fame of the "Brutti e Buoni" also attracted illustrious patrons, including Giuseppe Verdi, Queen Elena and Giosuè Carducci. Behind the euphoria of the café could be found the heavy workshop machinery, handled by pulleys, and the oven, with its heavy wrought iron door, loaded with bundles of wood. As always, the bedrooms were in the apartment above: the home within the shop, the shop within the home.

Costantino did not limit himself to the "Brutti e Buoni", however, but also created his own cookbook, which covered all of the conceivable specialties of the era. He jotted down detailed instructions in a notebook for preparing elixirs, vermouths, aperitifs and tonics, an art which he soon mastered. Everything was made using simple technology, with nothing but the mind and the heart of an artist.

Thus, the Veniani confectioner's shop began receiving awards: a bronze medal at the Varese Regional Exhibition in 1886, a gold medal for the "Brutti e Buoni" at the Rome Exhibition Fair in 1898. But Costantino Veniani had little time to enjoy his newfound fame: he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1901, at just fifty years of age. His most famous customer, Giuseppe Verdi, also died that same year.


Giuseppina Anderwill, who had courage to spare, was not demoralized by her husband's untimely death. She took control of the situation, firmly managed the workers (a pastry chef and an Armenian labourer who stayed in the "guest quarters"), took part in trade fairs and exhibitions and enlarged the business and the home by borrowing money to purchase the small boutique houses adjacent to the shop. While she had become an entrepreneur, she was also a mother that had to care for her son Giuseppe (born in 1887), who was still a young boy with a passion for his electro-technical studies.

At an exhibition held in Turin, Giuseppina Anderwill met Count Teofilo Rossi, the mayor of the city and founder of Martini e Rossi, who advised her to register her husband's trademark (which is still regularly renewed to this day). This was comprised of a small piece of paper, with art nouveau images of the local landscape, used to wrap and package the "Brutti e Buoni" two by two. At the centre, it bears Costantino's signature phrase, which warns not to confuse his original "Brutti e Buoni" with those of other confectioners who may try to imitate them.

Giuseppe soon abandoned his dream of becoming an electrical technician and began touring Europe to gain experience as a confectioner. He went on to become a skilled pastry chef, like his father, and began assisting his mother in the family business. At 33 years of age, he married Giuseppina Rossini. When his mother passed away in 1928, he transformed the business into a sole proprietorship under the name of "Caffè Pasticceria Veniani di Veniani Giuseppe".

This was the period of the fascist regime, but the new Giuseppina was so friendly with all of her customers that the confectioner's shop was frequented by town officials and conspirators alike. And even by the celebrities of the times: Amedeo Nazzari, writer Maria Volpi Nannipieri (known as Mura), singer and actress Elsa Merlini and cartoonist Giuseppe Scalarini. During World War II, the clientele naturally tapered off as raw materials became scarce. The confectioner's shop nevertheless became a meeting place for the officers living in the nearby barracks.

Giuseppe Veniani passed away in 1946, struck by a sudden heart attack like his father. Attilio Rossini, who was already a pastry chef for Alemagna in Milan, came to work alongside his sister, Giuseppina. In 1951, the company was reconstituted as a sole proprietorship under the name of "Pasticceria Veniani di Rossini Giuseppina ved. Veniani".

The female enterprise

Giuseppina Veniani had two daughters, Costantina and Augusta, who studied at home to earn diplomas (the former in teaching and the latter in secretarial work) while at the same time learning the trade that would become their life's work. Augusta was married to Claudio Clerici, a surveyor who never got involved in the confectionery trade (he later became one of the first designers of Milan's emerging metropolitan area). Costantina was single and never ended up marrying.

It was therefore these three women who carried on the business. Augusta worked alongside with the family's pastry chef, Attilio, in the laboratory, which was entirely renovated towards the end of the 1950s. Giuseppina opened up the shop after returning from early morning mass, while her daughter Costantina closed up around midnight; with the exception of Christmas afternoon, the shop was open 365 days a year, including holidays. The female enterprise had enormous success throughout the "twenty years of glory", from the 1950s up until the end of the 1960s. This period bore witness to the diffusion of the television, the growth of the middle class and the arrival of migrants from southern Italy. In the evenings, the entire Veniani family, who owned the only television in the neighbourhood, gathered around to watch "Lascia o raddoppia" ("Double or nothing"). Other times, they would get together to share a drink and chat, perhaps even meeting the athletes sponsored by Giovanni Borghi, founder of the company Ignis. These were the golden years of the neighbourhood café. After Attilio Rossini retired, the confectionery laboratory began employing qualified individuals from outside of the family business. Confectionery production remained strong despite a reduction in the numbers of orders from retailers and hotels.

One of the regular patrons was Guido Morselli, a little known writer who lived in Gavirate that only became famous after his death. He always ordered a shortbread biscuit and a double espresso in a large cup and would then sit down to write at a table near the window. These were the last glimpses of the early 20th century café. In 1969, following Giuseppina Rossini's death one year earlier, the two sisters of the family's third generation transformed the sole proprietorship enterprise into a de facto company under the name of "Pasticceria Veniani di Costantina e Augusta".

During the 1970s, and above all during the 1980s, the Veniani company was forced to deal with increasing competition. New confectioner's shops were springing up in and around Gavirate, and were gradually gaining their own share of the market.

From the 1990s to the present

Giuseppe Clerici, the eldest son of Claudio Clerici and Augusta Veniani, born in 1951, decided to enter the medical profession, despite being emotionally attached to the family store. From the mid-1990s, their second child, Federica Clerici, who was born in 1961, gradually took control of the company's management with her husband. Costantina and Augusta, who had grown elderly, assumed roles as passive partners in the company.

In 1997, the de facto company was transformed into a limited partnership, with Giuseppe and Federica as limited partners. These were difficult times in which the workload decreased drastically.

At the beginning of the year 2006, shortly prior to the death of Costantina, the Veniani confectioner's shop received an award from the Italian Region of Lombardy, classifying it as a "Regional Shop of Outstanding Historical Value". This stimulated the company, which had been around for over 130 years, to overcome the crisis and to stay alive. Federica and her husband decided to withdraw from the company early in the year 2007. With her exit, the company remained in the hands of Augusta and her son, Giuseppe, who was determined to carry forward the family tradition. Giuseppe was assisted by his son, Alessandro (born in 1981), a management engineer, as well as by his wife Susanna, who, like himself, was a physician. Both became partners in 2009 and the company name was changed to "Pasticceria Veniani sas di Clerici Alessandro & c."

Today, the house above the shop is only occupied by old Augusta, surrounded by the love of her family, who now all live elsewhere and are no longer directly involved in the company's daily affairs.

The company's recent revival, marked by an increase in staff, has been sustained by the discovery of an ancient recipe for cinnamon spiced "Brutti e Buoni" (a variant of the 1903 recipe's vanilla flavouring), which was found in an old cookbook by chance in 2007. While engaged in academic research, young Alessandro, representing the fifth generation, has also found time to devote to his family's business by managing the newly developed website and by participating in national and international industry trade fairs and exhibitions (such as SIAL, in Paris).

Today, "Brutti e buoni" can be found throughout the world, a delicious symbol of Italian creativity: From 5th avenue in New York, to the Mauritius Islands. The company's strategy is that of forming agreements with select foreign importers and retailers, who operate in markets of the utmost quality. This is certainly the case with the company's Dutch importer, a partner and friend of the family, who only distributes products of companies that have been around for at least 100 years.