various types of chocolate

Aztec Chocolate in Sicily

Aztec Chocolate in Sicily: An online cooking lesson presented by Annalisa Pompeo 
Introduction to the history of the Aztec chocolate in Modica by Pierpaolo Ruta
Moderated by Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair, Montclair State University)
Closing remarks by Floriana Di Gesù (Università degli Studi di Palermo)


Monday April 19, 2021   11:00am EST / 17 ora italiana – FLYER
Zoom webinar presented in Italian with simultaneous interpretation into Spanish (Giampaolo Sponza and Raffaello Dal Col) and English (Lilia Pino Blouin e Maria Galetta) – Instructions for interpretation

The lesson focuses on a chocolate bar that is still being manufactured both in Mexico and Modica (Sicily) using exactly the same techniques, and that was originally developed by the Aztecs and brought to Sicily by the Spaniards. After a brief historical introduction, chef Annalisa Pompeo will walk the participants through the preparation of the Aztec chocolate bar. She will illustrate the main recipe which includes the use of a palette of flavors ranging from traditional ingredients such as cinnamon and chili pepper to more contemporary ones.

ILLUSTRATED RECIPEFor questions, please contact the chef.

Aztec chocolate is one of the several foods introduced into Southern Italy gastronomy during the Spanish imperial period. A collection of recipes is under way in collaboration with Annalisa Pompeo as part of a project aimed at exploring the common Spanish legacy in Italian and Latin American cultures, now supported by an NEH Award in connection to the course Italian for Spanish Speakers.

Annalisa Pompeo

Her start-up activity (Go-Sicily), inspired by a farm-to-table philosophy steeped in the Mediterranean diet, has only grown over the years, taking her to the United States on more than one occasion for cooking classes in collaboration with La RosaWorks Tour, as well as to Cologne, Germany where the Italian Cultural Institute invited her for the 2020 Week of Italian Cooking in the World. Her approach interweaves cooking, storytelling and, when applicable, language learning in environments that range from private homes to contemporary art exhibition spaces, such as those of the innovative Farm Park. Among her specially designed classes, she has a series called Bimbi Chef for young children, and one on the pistachio-filled marzipan Easter lamb made according to a recipe handed down by the local nuns. Annalisa Pompeo has become an ambassador of local producers and products, including the Diodoros project, which supports bio-diverse preservation farming in the Valley of the Greek Temples in Agrigento, a UNESCO archeological site also known for its almonds, olives, and protected black bees. During the pandemic, she has once again reinvented herself: realizing that travel was out of the question for most chefs and class participants, she designed a colorful box to circulate a selection of local specialties;  the box also comes equipped with a Q code that provides access to cooking videos.

Pierpaolo Ruta Bonajuto Cioccolato Modica

Pierpaolo Ruta is the sixth-generation manager of the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. He lives and works in Modica. For over thirty years he has been engaged in researching the “stone-based” (alla pietra) chocolate production and its routes from Mesoamerica to Europe, and Sicily in particular.


Floriana Di Gesù is Associate Professor in Spanish Language and Translation in the Department of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Palermo. She is also the President of the Language Center (CLA) and the director of the dual degree program in Language and Translation for International Relations (University of Palermo) and Translation for Creative Writing and the Humanities of the University of Valencia (Spain).

She has published on translation of specialized languages and targeted sectors (from subtitling to tourism, social media, and the press), as well as neuro-scientific and neuro-pegadogical approaches to language learning (Neurodidattica, Lingua e Apprendimenti: riflessione teorica e proposte operative – 2013). Her recent monograph is about the application of perceptive linguistics and contrastive analysis in the acquisition of Spanish as a second language – Linguistica contrastivo-percettiva di lingue tipologicamente affini: italiano e spagnolo (2016) – where the concept of enactivism, i.e. the dynamic interaction between the subject and the environment in the cognitive process, plays a crucial role. See website.


“The Italian Town with an Ancient Secret”  By Lucinda Hawksley (BBC Travel, 2015)
“A Chocolate Tradition Thrives in Sicily” by Kate Singleton. New York Times (1999).
Ferdinando Scianna reads an excerpt from his book Ti mangio con gli occhi (Contrasto, 2013) about his encounter with a chocolate in Oaxaca, Mexico that smelled exactly like the one in Sicily (in Italian):