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This Italian chef makes miniature worlds out of pastry

Imagine a world made of pastry... chocolate rivers, gingerbread houses and buildings made of dough.

This Italian chef makes miniature worlds out of pastry
Photo: Matteo Strucchi/I dolci di Gulliver

That's exactly what Italian pastry chef Matteo Strucchi, 23, did.

Strucchi has been working as a pastry chef in Lecco, northern Italy, for two years, but since this summer, he's also been working on a passion project: a food photography account on Instagram which transforms his delicious desserts into a landscape for tiny people

The account, I Dolci di Gulliver, takes its name from the book Gulliver's Travels which sees an ordinary man travel to Lilliput, a nation of miniature people. Using models of people and vehicle, Strucchi creates scenes showing the people of Lilliput living in a world of pastry.

From sailing down a chocolate river to building complex desserts using trucks and cranes, Strucchi's characters have clearly captured people's imagination, and the account now boasts over 67,000 followers.

“I wanted to present my desserts differently from others,” he told The Local. “There are lots of artists who create miniatures using food, but I focus on desserts. I try to use my imagination as much as possible in order to surprise people.”

As for how he comes up with the unique ideas, Strucchi says he first focuses on making a beautiful pastry, and then tries to look at it from a new perspective. “Then, I think about how I can make my characters interact with it,” he explained.

See some of his creations below.

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Aug 6, 2016 at 11:35pm PDT

“The brownies wouldn't be complete without the nut topping, carefully chopped by my little helpers!”

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Sep 5, 2016 at 11:26pm PDT

The photographs show classic desserts from a new perspective, like these delicious profiteroles.

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Sep 22, 2016 at 11:19pm PDT

This peach tree was created to celebrate the Italian harvest season

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Oct 10, 2016 at 11:08pm PDT

“Today, there's a fishing competition in Lilliput!” said Strucchi; the Italian 'gara di pesca' is a play on words as 'pesca' is both a conjugation of 'pescare' (to fish) and the noun 'peach'.

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:03pm PDT

“Even monsters have to take care of their hands,” Strucchi commented on this Halloween special.

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Nov 4, 2016 at 12:00am PDT

Have you ever seen such a sweet wedding ceremony?

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Nov 17, 2016 at 11:00pm PST

The people of Lilliput help Strucchi to prepare some biscuit dough.

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:15pm PDT

A delicious fairground set up in Lilliput.

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Oct 17, 2016 at 10:57pm PDT

Strucchi and his little helpers take on the tricky Italian dessert, tiramisu.

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Sep 29, 2016 at 11:13pm PDT

If all weight-lifting was done with macarons, maybe we'd be more tempted to go to the gym…

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Sep 12, 2016 at 11:26pm PDT

Observing pastry swans in their natural habitat.

 

A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Aug 8, 2016 at 10:11pm PDT

The tiny adventurers ascend Mount Muffin.

 

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DISCOVER ITALY

Why some of Italy’s food festivals are ‘fake’ – and how to pick the best ones

Italy's countless sagre, or food fairs, are an autumn highlight. But how do you find the best events - and avoid the more commercial ones? Reporter Silvia Marchetti explains.

Why some of Italy’s food festivals are 'fake' - and how to pick the best ones

Italy’s renowned food fairs are one of the most exciting events during autumn and winter, particularly the coldest months when we’re looking for culinary weekend distractions. 

For the uninitiated, sagre are key gourmand exhibitions mixing local food, premium products, cheeses and olive oil – all the ‘excellences’ of the area – but lately I find some are just, well, fake. 

READ ALSO: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

Instead of selling traditional indigenous delicacies, vendors sell a little bit of everything which they think appeals to foreigners and city people desperate for a rural break. 

Last weekend I went to the sagra at Osteria Nuova, near Passo Corese in Lazio, and found mozzarella from Naples and limoncello from Amalfi: now what do those have to do with the Rieti countryside?

It was sad and disappointing. Even though it takes place in an area which is famous at this time of the year for exquisite porcini mushrooms and chestnuts there was not even one single vendor selling these. Instead, there was codfish from Venice and porchetta from the Castelli Romani.

Up until a few years ago the Osteria Nuova food fair was very genuine and appealing: it was actually a real farmers’ market where animals were sold: not just rabbits and hens but cows, horses and donkeys. It was a vibrant event. 

Now the cages that once kept the animals are empty. And people just go there to stuff themselves with huge sandwiches and hotdogs. It’s always hell finding a parking spot because the fair is very close to Rome, luring day trippers on a ‘scampagnata’.

Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

My advice is to avoid visiting food fairs which are too close to big cities and towns, but pick offbeat villages or unknown rural spots where the sagre are small and with local producers selling authentic, ‘indigenous’ products. Choosing the remote hillsides, where traditions tend to survive, is of course better than the touristy areas. 

READ ALSO: Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy

Also, it’s best if the food fair is not too heavily sponsored or advertised in national newspapers. The best thing to do is search online for all food fairs in the area you plan to visit during the weekend or even during the week, and ask friends and locals as word of mouth can often be more reliable. 

Among the authentic sagre I would recommend the porcini mushroom food fair in San Martino al Cimino in the pristine hills of the Tuscia countryside in Lazio, where the woods are dotted with porcini. 

At the fair not only bags of huge porcini are sold but you can also buy a lunch ticket and taste various mushroom dishes sitting down at wooden tables. Last time I was served a delicious potato and porcini soup which inspired me to replicate (successfully) the recipe at home. 

However, the best thing is to search for the weird and unknown – food fairs with funny names and showcasing products that sound and look really bizarre. So forget about the usual truffles, mozzarella, limoncello, ham and pasta-filled events. I suggest opting for quirky food festivals in never-heard-of-before villages where the culinary adventure comes with a cultural jolt. 

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

When I hear about something amazingly off-the-wall and tasty, with a particular story or legend behind it, my curiosity and taste buds tingle.

Last weekend I was surfing the web and came across the Ciammellocco festival in the tiny hamlet of Cretone, Lazio, which immediately aroused my curiosity. 

READ ALSO: 14 reasons why Lazio should be your next Italian holiday destination

As I had never heard of it before, I jumped in the car the following day and ventured out to an isolated woody area with a few small dwellings, where one single bakery makes this huge, funny-sounding, highly-nutritious sweet-salty doughnut with fennel seeds which has been around since at least the middle ages. Housewives used to make it for their husbands as a substitute for lunch when they went off working in the fields. 

Even though I have tasted similar ciambelle in my life none come close to ciammellocco, crunchy and tender at the same time, made with eggs but light.

Next I heard about the Sagra della Papera in Carassai, Marche region, offering succulent duck meat dishes with pappardelle pasta and roasted duck breasts, and given duck isn’t something you’d normally find in Italian restaurants, it makes the cut for authentic food events. 

Vegetarians can’t miss the Festival degli Orapi in the village of Picinisco north of Naples where guests are treated to platefuls of a unique, delicious spinach variety which is made exquisite by the fact that it grows beneath goat poo, a natural fertilizer. Locals actually roam the countryside with a knife to scrape away the poo and extract the orapi.

In Pedagaggi, Sicily, local housewives organize the Sagra della mostarda di fichi d’india, with gourmet dishes made from exotic-looking prickly pear mustards. 

READ ALSO: ‘La scampagnata’: What it is and how to do it the Italian way

Other curious sagre include the Festa del Gorgonzola set in the town of Gorgonzola in Lombardy which is the real birthplace of Italy’s iconic blue cheese. Huge pentoloni of steaming pots of gorgonzola in the middle of the piazza lure pungent cheese addicts. 

Also Diamante’s festival del peperoncino in Calabria is a must stop for lovers of strong, authentic hot dishes spiced up with chili peppers (there’s even a peperoncini eating marathon).

Real sagre tend to showcase one premium native product rather than a myriad with overlapping origins.

The more ‘local’ you dive into the deepest, remote corners of Italy full of tradition and folklore, the more genuine the sagra and the more satisfying the gastronomical experience.

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