An Offer She Couldn’t Refuse

The founders of La Colombe offered to trade their coffee for Gilda Doganiero's amazing biscotti. Now Gilda's Biscotti is a thriving 20-year-old.

Gilda Doganiero of Gilda's Biscotti

In 1995, Gilda Doganiero was a young pastry chef with a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. After work at the Four Seasons hotel in Philadelphia one day, she was drawn by the smell of coffee to the roastery of the then-new La Colombe Torrefazione. She struck up a conversation with the two guys who had founded the business. When she told them she had perfected a fantastic biscotti recipe while working at Georges Perrier’s famous Le Bec Fin, they offered to sell her biscuits in their café and pay her in coffee.

“That was a deal I would take any day of the week,” says Doganiero with a laugh.

She dropped off a selection. By the end of the day the biscotti had sold out and the La Colombe guys were asking for more.

“That’s how I got this crazy idea that I could start a biscotti business,” says Doganiero, now 45. “I was lucky that I was young and naïve and didn’t understand all the risks of opening my own business. But I was also lucky that there was this wave of small independent coffee shops getting ready to open, and they were looking for a product like mine.”

Dagoniero started the business in her tiny apartment kitchen in Haddonfield, the town where she had grown up. Today, Gilda’s Biscotti, based in Salem, delivers seven different varieties of traditional biscotti to more than 100 wholesale clients and does a brisk business at to anyone craving the perfect dunkable treat. She and one other baker hand-cut every cookie.


Dagoniero had first developed her biscotti recipe in the early ’90s while working at a hotel in Vail, Colorado. As she explains on her website, one of the key features of her recipe happened later, by accident. One day at Le Bec Fin, where she was a pastry chef, she was working on her biscotti dough when the great chef happened by unexpectedly. She wasn’t supposed to be working on biscotti at that moment, so she panicked and knocked over a canister of sugar, spilling it all over her biscotti.

“Once Chef walked away,” she writes, “I ended up baking my now sugar-coated dough…Eureka! The sugar melted and crystallized into an amazing craggly texture. And I still make my biscotti the same way 20 years later.”

The biscotti comes in vanilla bean, almond anise, chocolate hazelnut, chocolate espresso, cherry pistachio, lemon fig and candied orange almond. An 8-ounce bag is $7. If you can’t decide, go for the Dad’s Midnight Stash assortment, available in $7 and $10 sizes. There are also gift tins for $25.


Growing up in an Italian-American household “where everything centered around cooking and eating,” Doganiero fine-tuned her palate early on, learning the necessity of using the best ingredients.

Nowadays, she says, many people are shopping Euro-style, seeking out the best food products and creating a niche for entrepreneurs like her who focus on quality over quantity.

“I want to do one thing,” she says, “and I want to do it really well.”

Read more Eat & Drink, Soup to Nuts articles.

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