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Aunt Mary’s Italian Cookies offer a sweet geography lesson

Italian cookies, including lemon and chocolate ricotta cookies (center), sugar dusted snowballs with nuts, Sicilian chocolate chip (top right and bottom left), and more
Italian cookies, including lemon and chocolate ricotta cookies (center), sugar dusted snowballs with nuts, Sicilian chocolate chip (top right and bottom left), and more

I’ve rarely given much thought to where cookies come from, and neither had the kid. But he could tell I hadn’t picked these up at the supermarket. “Where’d you get these?” he asked, a glazed lemon ricotta cookie in his hand.

A constant line at the Aunt Mary's both at the Rancho Santa Fe Sunday farmers market

“Rancho Santa Fe.”

“They’re great!” he said through a lemony mouthful. “Wherever that is.”

It feels like a trek, almost wherever you’re coming from, but the Rancho Santa Fe is where you’ll find Aunt Mary’s Italian Cookies. The small business holds down a booth there in the land of golf courses, at the Sunday farmers market (16079 San Dieguito Road).

Snowball cookies featuring (left to right) pistachios, almonds, and walnuts

Aunt Mary would be Mary DeFalco, a first-generation Sicilian-American who bakes in accordance to her culture’s traditions. The result is an assortment of buttery rich baked goodness ranging from shortbread to Sicilian chocolate chip.

Some of the cookies make use of nuts, such as a trio of sugar dusted snowballs that let you choose: almond, walnut, or pecan. There are almond cookies with homemade marzipan, sesame biscuits, and fruity, linzer-like butter cookies boasting the likes of lemon custard, raspberry, apricot, or strawberry with balsamic vinegar. Oh, and a chocolate version of that cookie made with ricotta cheese.

Butter cookies with (left to right) raspberry, lemon custard, strawberry-balsamic vinegar, and apricot

You can order any of these for $24-30 pound, or a boxed assortment for home delivery, through Mary’s web site. But if you show up in person, you can save a few bucks and pick your favorites. I found a line of folks doing just that and could only wonder, ruefully, which sold-out flavors had occupied empty places on the table before I arrived. I’m betting cannoli.

For $28, I picked up a hand-picked assortment of cookies that looked a bit old fashioned but truly delivered with big, kid-sanctioned flavors.

“What makes Sicilian chocolate chip different from regular chocolate chip?” the boy asked.

“I don’t know exactly,” I admitted. This cookie was spherical, and chewier than the average chocolate chip, hinting at holiday spices. “I think it means this is how they make cookies in Italy.”

He nodded for a few moments, chewing slowly to savor each bite. “I have one more question,” he said, at last. “Where’s Italy?”

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Italian cookies, including lemon and chocolate ricotta cookies (center), sugar dusted snowballs with nuts, Sicilian chocolate chip (top right and bottom left), and more
Italian cookies, including lemon and chocolate ricotta cookies (center), sugar dusted snowballs with nuts, Sicilian chocolate chip (top right and bottom left), and more

I’ve rarely given much thought to where cookies come from, and neither had the kid. But he could tell I hadn’t picked these up at the supermarket. “Where’d you get these?” he asked, a glazed lemon ricotta cookie in his hand.

A constant line at the Aunt Mary's both at the Rancho Santa Fe Sunday farmers market

“Rancho Santa Fe.”

“They’re great!” he said through a lemony mouthful. “Wherever that is.”

It feels like a trek, almost wherever you’re coming from, but the Rancho Santa Fe is where you’ll find Aunt Mary’s Italian Cookies. The small business holds down a booth there in the land of golf courses, at the Sunday farmers market (16079 San Dieguito Road).

Snowball cookies featuring (left to right) pistachios, almonds, and walnuts

Aunt Mary would be Mary DeFalco, a first-generation Sicilian-American who bakes in accordance to her culture’s traditions. The result is an assortment of buttery rich baked goodness ranging from shortbread to Sicilian chocolate chip.

Some of the cookies make use of nuts, such as a trio of sugar dusted snowballs that let you choose: almond, walnut, or pecan. There are almond cookies with homemade marzipan, sesame biscuits, and fruity, linzer-like butter cookies boasting the likes of lemon custard, raspberry, apricot, or strawberry with balsamic vinegar. Oh, and a chocolate version of that cookie made with ricotta cheese.

Butter cookies with (left to right) raspberry, lemon custard, strawberry-balsamic vinegar, and apricot

You can order any of these for $24-30 pound, or a boxed assortment for home delivery, through Mary’s web site. But if you show up in person, you can save a few bucks and pick your favorites. I found a line of folks doing just that and could only wonder, ruefully, which sold-out flavors had occupied empty places on the table before I arrived. I’m betting cannoli.

For $28, I picked up a hand-picked assortment of cookies that looked a bit old fashioned but truly delivered with big, kid-sanctioned flavors.

“What makes Sicilian chocolate chip different from regular chocolate chip?” the boy asked.

“I don’t know exactly,” I admitted. This cookie was spherical, and chewier than the average chocolate chip, hinting at holiday spices. “I think it means this is how they make cookies in Italy.”

He nodded for a few moments, chewing slowly to savor each bite. “I have one more question,” he said, at last. “Where’s Italy?”

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