A fluffy, demure kitchen cat named Cookie, the best Sfogliatelle this side of the Atlantic and a passionate Neapolitan artisenne completes the divine experience called Maria’s Pastry Shop.
Straight from the heart to your mouth, Maria, her daughters, sister and mother run this unpretentious gem of a bakery in a quiet strip mall that forms a southern border for the loft-laden North End district of Boston. That’s where my dear friends Lauren and Tyler live. (If you haven’t been there, picture a quainter Tribeca.)
A little context. I’ve known these classy newlyweds since my New York days. Lauren and I were teammates managing the Mr. Clean account for several years together. Let’s just say that strong ties quickly develop when you spend time at NASCAR races and work the Hamptons party scene together as handlers for the public persona of the Mr. Clean brand. I’ll also have you know that anything Lauren (and Tyler!) recommends is a knockout. She has the classic, graceful style of Audrey Hepburn with an eclectic jolt. Grade A+ taste. And Lauren certainly wasn’t about to let me down with this recommendation for a quick bite of breakfast around the corner from her apartment.
In so many words, Maria’s Pastry Shop is heaven for lovers of authentic Italian desserts and pastries that taste of the old world because of the care and time-honored traditions baked into them. Maria’s black and white photocopied menu on the front counter reads like a bible of Italian sweets, with a calendar of specialties only available during their corresponding holidays throughout the year. And the best part is that they ship these babies anywhere in the U.S.
The star of the shop, along with Maria herself of course, is her Sfogliatelle. Maria emphatically proclaims, “Nobody makes Sfogliatelle like me.” Hers is the only one I’ve tried, but I’m sure she’s right. Literally meaning “little sheets,” referring to the infinite layers of thinly rolled-out dough, this clam shell-shaped treat is baked to a golden crisp and contains a subtly sweet filling of mild cheese, semolina flour and candied citrus fruit mixed with eggs and sugar. As you bite into the crunchy (“crocante”) shell, the contrast against its melt-in-your-mouth interior (mine came warm, fresh from the oven) is transporting. Just look at the pictures and you’ll know what I mean.
There were so many more things I wanted to ask Maria, but I was short on time to catch the 8:15 a.m. Acela to New York City where I will be spending the rest of the weekend visiting friends, returning Monday night to Miami (that is, if don’t get snowed-in.) I’m so happy to have been able to capture what I could though, which, for me, was an awareness and appreciation of this woman, her story and what she passionately stands for. Buon appetito, e ciao bella.