Ancient Sweetie Moulds


Matt Bird

La Formella meaning ‘mould’, ‘pattern’ or ‘tile’ in Italian is the name given to these ancient clay moulds.

Originally they were made and used as moulds for jellies, sweets, quince and other such delights.

I love them simply as fascinating and beautiful historical items. More practically they are fabulous for serving aperitivo nibbles such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cheese, charcuterie, tomatoes and olive oil for dipping bread.

My first discovery of La Formella was at the Noto Sunday market. I picked one up that was the mould of the first initial of my surname B and I’ve been collecting ever since.

I now come across La Formella regularly at Sicilian markets and also amongst other collectors. Tina Santacroce of Caffe Minerva in Ortigia has a beautiful collection some of which she is willing to sell. So if you are in the market to find out more or would like lots to choose from I recommend a visit to Tina.

Putting a date to La Formella can be tricky but I’ve picked up three clues that help discern their age.

#1 Colour: The colour of their glaze graduates from white which are from the early 18th century through to yellow from the mid 19th century.

#2 Feet: If you are going to use La Formella to serve aperitivo nibbles then you want them to be stable. Those with feet date from the mid to late 18th century onwards whilst the oldest from the early 18th century have no feet at all and generally do not sit well on a flat surface.

#3 Sound: With age comes dryness. Clay continues to dry over decades and centuries. La Formella of different ages have different sounds when very carefully tapped on a hard surface.

Professor Vincenzo Forgia has researched La Formella extensively which has resulted in the publication of a beautiful book. Whilst written in Italian it contains hundreds of pictures of La Formella to enjoy.

The Rooftop is fortunate to have a copy for its coffee table collection so that our guests can enjoy, perhaps alongside their aperitivo drink and nibbles.

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