Sweet Spots
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Dolcini by Joseph
If “imagination” is on your Santa list, then Dolcini By Joseph is a good place to start. With a masterful skill for detail and design and an exquisite palette for desserts and confectionery, Joseph Montinaro offers an irresistible array of pastries, cakes, truffles and bonbons from his quaint shop in Kleinburg.
His passion for the pastry arts began at an early age under the guidance of his father, who ran West Finch Bakery in Toronto before Montinaro took ownership in 1998 and then later opened Dolcini in 2004. Ever since, customers have relied on nothing less than decadent artisan desserts.
For the holidays, they'll be greeted by an assortment of handcrafted delights, including chocolate confections, fig-almond cookies, buche de Noel and other centrepieces for the holiday table. Montinaro's personal favourite: rich chocolate with roasted nuts. “I love the combination of these two mediums,” he says.
“In the end, it's our consumers that we must satisfy,” Montinaro says. “They are our strongest critics and they're the ones who give us the opportunity to create on a day-to-day basis. Collectively as a team, we are always trying to create a product that we are truly proud of.”
Indeed, there are many proud moments from an impressive lineup of workmanship. He and his team have created cakes for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. Montinaro was a finalist in Barry Callebaut Canadian Pre-Selection for the World Chocolate Masters and can often be found as a judge for several industry-renown competitions.

Patisserie V. Marie
Stroll into Patisserie V. Marie and you'll be brought back to a quaint Parisian-style pastry boutique. Here, you'll find the daintiest of details that are equally reflective in the displays that greet you as well as in the French-inspired pastries and confectionery delights that line the shelves. But it's the luscious assortment of desserts in cheerful hues that beckon customers to the four-year-old shop and its team of designer bakers, led by pastry chefs and owners Vanessa Fiorini and Elpidio Galasso.
“Our signature sweet treat is our macaroon of the month,” Fiorini says. “Each month, we discover a new flavour, and have a contest for our customers to win free macaroons.”
For the Christmas holidays, the shop will also feature other European desserts that claim equal attention among customers, such as artisan panettone in three flavours—original, chocolate chip and raisin—as well as handcrafted torrone (Italian nougat), all made in-house. They'll be accompanied by the daily offerings of shortbread cookies, cupcakes, French pastries and petit gâteaux.
The sweet selections are as inviting as the award-winning pastry creators themselves. Fiorini, who is in charge of specialty cake orders, and Galasso, who runs the pastry side of the business, pride themselves on customer service, quality ingredients and workmanship. And it shows in their accolades: both have worked in some of the finest hotel kitchens and have received awards for their work. Galasso has won in the best original pastry category at Canada's Baking and Sweets Show in both 2013 and 2014, while Fiorini won top prize in an international cake competition held in New Orleans.  
“We are passionate about the taste of our products and pay attention to the smallest details,” says Fiorini, “which creates a unique and memorable experience for our clients.”

Oh So Sweet
Owner and head baker Rosa Cirillo takes pride in having a shop that creates baked goods that are not only nut free, but that also come together with only real, wholesome ingredients with no fillers or by-products.
“We put a lot of love into our products, therefore, we are all about quality, not quantity,” she says.
It might be why Oh So Sweet's brownies, blondies and salted caramel bars, cookies and cupcakes don't stick around for very long. During this time of year, it's also traditional cookies and biscotti artfully arranged in platters and boxes, along with decorated cupcakes and Christmas panettone, that get repeat orders, all made by a team of talented pastry chefs who have helped Rosa's little business soar over the past couple of years, she says. 
“My biggest weakness, however, is our lemon ricotta cookies, which is also one of our most popular cookies,” Cirillo adds. “It's a recipe that has been in our family for years. Once you try one, you are guaranteed to be hooked.”

Nicol's Pastry Shop
When you have as much experience in the family-run business as the pastry creators behind Nicol's, there's sure to be some famed desserts. One of them is the shop's delicately whipped creamed pies—the most popular is the coconut custard pie, crafted to perfection and topped with chantilly cream and shredded coconut after it fills a flaky crust. 
The recipe is a family treasure created by veteran pastry maker, 80-year-old Horst Fabian, whose list of credentials, including several years at the Four Season's Hotel and original owner of Fabian's Café in Scarborough, is as long as the shop's assortment of handcrafted goodies for the holiday. Customers will have a selection to choose from, including gingerbread houses and men, butter cookies like linzer, Florentine and rugelach, strudels and pound cakes among others.
Daughter Nicol now works alongside her father, pairing traditional European delicacies with modern ideas and designs at the dessert table. Indeed, the shop is decorated in decadent reds and pinks, a fitting backdrop for the cheerful cupcakes that line up perfectly at the storefront.
Horst says customers can count on desserts that “are not too sweet and you can definitely taste the difference.”
Adds Nicol, “My dad is still in control. Everything has to live up to his high standards and only the best will do.”

Sweet Boutique
Owner and pastry chef Anthony Macri combines natural, fresh ingredients with centuries-old techniques like “Nonna used to make it” to create holiday favourites. Among the lineup of sweet specialties are traditional panettone crafted and baked on the premises and filled with dreamy fillings like the newest offering, Nutella cream.
“My personal favourite is the fig cookies we make just for the Christmas season, called San Martini,” Macri says. “We use a recipe hundreds of years old and passed on from generation to generation. We love seeing the joy on customers' faces when they see them and remember old memories of their grandparents making them.”
While Macri wears the pastry chef's hat, he credits his team of bakers and decorators for making it a popular stop among patrons who enjoy it as much for its seasonal baked goods—like its prize-winning zeppole featured later in the New Year—as its fine coffee blends and camaraderie.

The Big Cannoli
It's says it all in the name—cannolis are a BIG deal at this specialty shop that has taken the decadent Sicilian dessert to a whole new level. Indeed, you'll find the father-and-son partnership of Val and Michael Cappelli experimenting and decorating the much-loved confection, which takes a decadently sweet creamy ricotta filling and pipes it into a crispy, fried dough.
With every season and occasion, the fun-spirited duo reinvents the traditional cannoli in every flavour imaginable: blueberry during the Blue Jays' playoff run; pumpkin during the fall, Nutella filled and even a bacon-wrapped cannoli, just because. If that weren't enough, you'll often find mini decadent cannolis nestled inside a super-sized cannoli shell (log), a lovely display for sweet tables or mini cannolis decorating some of the shop's homemade cakes.
The Cappellis are also known for their Nutella-filled croissants and bombe, nut cakes and other chocolate-filled pastries, enjoyed with a piping hot espresso. The Big Cannoli is also the recipient of the 2012 and 2013 Reader's Choice Award for best cannoli by the Vaughan Citizen.

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