History of the Neapolitan Danube: the rustic cake born from an Austrian love

by Federico Quagliuolo

When it comes to the Danube in the rest of Italy, everyone thinks of River. In Naples, however, the stomach begins to grumble because we have just mentioned the soul of all parties: the inevitable "ball", sweet or savory, stuffed with cured meats and cheese.

The homonymy is deliberate: the name of the rustic party is a true homage to the waterway that bathes all the ancient capitals Austro-Hungaric Empire. It is in fact the Neapolitan version of the Buchteln which, just happened, is a aesthetically identical plate.

This time, however, it is not a question of one eighteenth-century history, as the birth of the staple from the donut, But say a dessert "invented" in 1920 by Giovanni Scaturchio: it was all thanks to one love story born among enemy peoples during the First World War.

Storia del Danubio napoletano: la torta rustica nata da un amore austriaco
Un danubio

A love story on the enemy front

Although Naples was not the scene of fighting during the Great War, an entire generation of southerners went to fight in the name of their homeland. For example, a certain arrived in the city soldier Forgione, who later became Padre Pio, while boys like Ugo Niutta, who gave his name to the airport. And also a Japanese who spoke only in Neapolitan.

It was in this climate of bewilderment, bayonet assaults and trenches in the Alps that the very young Giovanni Scaturchio lived, the latest arrival of a Calabrian family originally from Monteleone (which would later become Vibo Valentia). His family had opened a pastry shop in Naples.
At the front he met Katharina Persolija, who would later be Italianized into Caterina Persolia, a fascinating woman who made his heart beat faster. A love that passed language barriers e a whole world war that separated the peoples and that the Neapolitan Diaz he was ferrying to victory later disastrous defeats.
The heart of Scaturchio he had lived his own Caporetto when he met the handsome one for the first time Catherine of Salzburg, which in 1917 had 19 years.

Storia del Danubio napoletano: la torta rustica nata da un amore austriaco
ITA - (intranet) Scaturchio, historical photo

The Danube is born

He returned to Naples in one piece, with a great relief for the family, and he also brought one with him Austrian wife. And this, instead, changed the history of Neapolitan pastry: Catherine was not in fact a submissive woman, as the morals of the time often required, but she revealed herself passionate and proactive, supporting her husband in the work. And he taught the good John all the tricks and secrets of Austrian pastry.

Strudel and Sacher torte they have kept their name, and it was known that those of the pastry shop Scaturchio were among the best of Naples. The Danubeinstead, it was one revisiting of another Austrian dessert, the Buchteln, which is made up of a series of brioche dough balls stuffed with sweet vanilla or chocolate cream.

It was the year 1920 and the good Giovanni put it in the window for the first time a rustic version of the Buchteln: always made with brioche dough, but filled with very tasty Neapolitan salami and cubes of Irpinia cheese. The decisive contrast between the sweetness of the soft dough and the salty of the filling was a dish simple, cheap and a lot of fun from nibble to the buffet. It was an unparalleled success and soon went from local specialty to sweet of the Neapolitan tradition.

There are also those who claim that the Danube was actually born in Bourbon era, thanks to another woman, Maria Carolina of Habsburg, wife of Ferdinand IV. It is not excluded that the Austrian dessert was already known in Naples for at least a century even in one salty variant, but definitely the commercial success and the name Danube was born in the window of Scaturchio.

And today, ironically, some sell the "Sweet danube" thinking of creating one variant of the original rustic when instead the Danube was born just like a cake!

Danubio di Monica Renna
The Danube of Monica Renna

Neapolitan Danube Recipe:

The recipe is from the talented Monica Renna, which you can find on Instagram profile come on Yellow Saffron.

500 g flour 0
200 g milk
20 g honey
15 g brewer's yeast
2 eggs
40 g butter
40 g lard
15 g Parmesan cheese
5 g salt
For the stuffing
200 g cheese
200 g salami
To brush
1 yolk
1 tablespoon of milk

Dissolve the yeast in the milk and honey. Pour into the mixer and add all the other ingredients. Work until you get a strung dough. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and leave to rise for about 2 hours. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead quickly and divide it into 23 x 40g balls. Crush the balls with your hands. Put some filling, close and arrange in a 26 cm round pan previously lined with parchment paper. Leave to rise for another 30 min. Mix one egg yolk with a tablespoon of milk and brush the surface of the danube. Bake in a preheated oven 25-30 min at 180 °.

Buchteln Austriaco
The Austrian Buchteln: same as the Danube!

Austrian Buchteln Recipe:

We refer you to this beautiful one South Tyrolean procedure.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Cover photo by Davide Civitiello

The story is dedicated to Simona Piscopo for her generous donation. Support Naples Stories too: your contribution keeps us free and independent.


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