I had been to Italy a number of times already. But this time offered a perspective completely different from any of the previous trips. My friend Nick was gearing up to do the research for his Great Italian Desserts and asked me to be his “production assistant,” so to speak. He grew up speaking Italian. I had more practical experience traveling in Italy. Done! He took notes. I took photos. And what a great way to see the country this time -- through the kitchens of its restaurants and pastry shops. We were welcomed behind the scenes by the warmest people throughout Italy, people who seemed genuinely interested in sharing their traditions and professional secrets. Seen here, Giulio Nostro of the Pasticceria Margherita shows us how he shapes a rolled-out almond-paste dough, fitting it into a mold to prepare the traditional Easter lamb cake in southern Italy.