I’m probably speaking the obvious, but in case you haven’t noticed, new bakeries are springing up all over the Lou.
From the edgy takes on grandma-style desserts at Whisk and Pint Size Bakery, to the thoroughly authentic French pastries at La Patisserie Chouquette, the threats to your pants size are already varied and plentiful.
And with the arrival of Piccione Pastry, you might as well give up and just loosen your belt another notch.
Piccione has breathed light and life into a previously underutilized corner of Delmar and Skinker, significantly speeding along the march to connect the eastern and western sides of the Loop neighborhood.
Piccione (pigeon in Italian) puts a bird on its red-and-white logo and makes an immediate impression with a “cheerful-industrial” aesthetic of red walls, big windows, slate-gray tables and exposed ductwork.
If you aren’t already in a ravenously greedy state of mind when you walk through the door, prepare to release your inner glutton when you see Piccione’s display cases, packed with a dazzling array of small-batch, from-scratch Italian pastry treats served up by a very welcoming staff.
At Piccione, expect substance balanced by a surprising lightness, with tender, spongy takes on cakes, and an emphasis on flavor that transcends mere sweetness.
If you like your desserts boozy, try a slice of rum-dashed cassata cake ($4.25) in flavors like mocha checkerboard, with its intricately woven yellow and mocha cake, or the strawberry with its white cake and fruit cream filling.
For those who want to eat their drink, the rum baba ($3.25) — a cross between a doughnut and a sponge cake dripping with rum syrup — is rather obscene in shape and over-the-top in hootch.
Or you can leave the baba and take the cannoli ($3.25), offered in nine flavors ranging from pistachio to citrus cream and frequently replenished throughout the day. I was particularly impressed by the house-special Piccione cream version, with its wonderfully thin, crisp shell and a whipped filling that’s lighter and more delicate than more traditional ricotta varieties.
Not in a pastry mood? Then go for Piccione’s vast array of cookies, a steal at $9 a pound and a great way to share what Piccione has to offer with an office mate or three. Enhanced by a dollop of fruit-forward raspberry jam in its center, the raspberry thumbprint is a great take on the simple butter cookie. So is the Italian butter spritz, half of it bathed in decadent dark chocolate. The Italian tricolor, a tiny layer cake in hot pink, green and cream, may scream “food coloring” but tastes like fragrant almonds, tangy apricot preserves and a deep, dark chocolate ganache.
And, by all means, save room for Piccione’s take on tiramisu ($4.25). Here, this oft-leaden Italian classic is transformed into something more ethereal, layering whipped mascarpone cream, coffee-infused lady fingers, the sweet spike of Kahlua and the smokiness of espresso.
In the end, your waistline may be sorry — but I guarantee you won’t be.