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Sweet Scoop: 13 Pastry Chefs to Know in Philly

By Danya Henninger
March 26, 2014

Last week, New York magazine’s Adam Platt declared this the “Dark Age of dessert,” claiming the glory days of decadent after-dinner sweets have given way to a parade of boring or ill-advised post-meal plates. We couldn’t disagree more.

Though we can’t speak for NYC, there’s a wealth of sugar-wielding talent in Philadelphia right now (perhaps all Platt needs is a trip 90 miles south). Click through to meet 13 of Philly’s best pastry chefs, so you know where to go when you’re seeking something special and sweet.

  • Angela Ranalli, Le Virtu

    Pastry cred: Nine years including Vernick Food & Drink, Water Works and La Patisserie in Cape May
    Favorite dessert to make: Hand-painted fondant mini cakes - they are like teeny, tiny canvases.
    Weirdest dessert request: Black truffle vanilla semifreddo is on our menu, and it's been a hit.
    Favorite sweet to eat: Warm ricotta filled sfogliatelle (made with lardo) from Pantaleone Pasticceria in Salerno, Italy
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: Get the almond sticks at Artisan Boulanger Patissier, tres leches cake at La Calaca Feliz and cannoli at Termini Brothers.

  • Samantha Kincaid, High Street on Market, Fork and a.kitchen + bar

    Pastry cred: Five years, including time at in Wisconsin and at R2L in Philly
    Favorite dessert to make: Custard and mousse - anything creamy and loaded with flavor, with shortbread
    Weirdest dessert request: A wedding cake in the shape of the hungry caterpillar
    Favorite sweet to eat: Malt ice cream with brown butter fudge and a side of oxidized sherry is sort of a dream dessert - I like sweetness when its subtleties are draw out quietly.
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: Ice creams from Osteria and Zsa's are incredible, but R2L's Peter Scarola, who I was fortunate enough to work under when I first arrived in Philly, consistently does superb, inventive work.

  • Vita Shanley, Talula’s Garden and Talula's Daily

    Pastry cred: 12 years, including six in Las Vegas at Michael Mina’s Nobhill, Fiamma and others
    Favorite dessert to make: Crème brûlée Napoleon or banana fosters crêpes
    Weirdest dessert request: Not weird, but in Vegas there was a regular high-roller who always wanted something showy and off-menu for dessert.
    Favorite sweet to eat: Chocolate salted caramel tart
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: I love the rocky road dessert at Serpico and the desserts at Filter Dining Room.

  • Jessica Mogardo, Garces Group

    Pastry cred: 13 years, including four with Garces plus time in New Orleans, LA, Miami and NYC
    Favorite dessert to make: Anything frozen - ice creams, sherbets, entremets, granitas, etc.
    Weirdest dessert request: Most interesting - a wedding cake out of Mcvities Digestive cookies; most unusual - tobacco infused mousseline for a beer dinner
    Favorite sweet to eat: Having a gluten allergy, I tend to just taste in very small amounts. If I were to sit down to a dessert, any warm fruit dish would hit the spot.
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: Yogorino makes fantastic yogurt and has so many great toppings. Also the choco taco at Alla Spina is totes fun, the goat cheese panna cotta at a.kitchen is a great savory dessert and the carrot cake at Continental Mid-Town is just old-fashioned goodness.

  • Abigail Dahan, Parc

    Pastry cred: Nine years, including at Le Bec-Fin 2.0, the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia and in Florida, Chicago and Las Vegas
    Favorite dessert to make: Macarons - they are so beautiful, one can really express creativity through colors and flavors.
    Weirdest dessert request: When I was on Sweet Genius, I had to make a chocolate dessert and incorporate pigs in a blanket. Yuck!
    Favorite sweet to eat: Chocolate - my favorite is the Michel Cluizel 45% milk.
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: Lacroix, where my friend Tova Du Plessis is pastry chef. Try the rhubarb crostada, it’s awesome!

  • Brian DeMuro, Rex 1516

    Pastry cred: 12 years as pastry chef (now both pastry and sous chef at Rex)
    Favorite dessert to make: Donuts and desserts that bring people back to their childhood
    Weirdest dessert request: Everything I made on Food Network's Sweet Genius, including a chocolate black garlic mascarpone mousse
    Favorite sweet to eat: Donuts, cheesecake and anything peanut butter and chocolate
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: I don't get out much...

  • Christine Paciello, Jones

    Pastry cred: Two years as pastry chef after many years in the Jones kitchen, plus time at Daniel Stern’s Rae
    Favorite dessert to make: Cookies. Simple as it sounds, I really love all different types, especially shortbread.
    Weirdest dessert request: Mint cookies and cream ice cream on top of a warm apple pie with  caramel sauce
    Favorite sweet to eat: Good quality chocolates
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: Barclay Prime has some of the best in the city.

  • Patricia Smith, Foam Floaterie

    Pastry cred: Seven years, including at Four Seasons Philadelphia, Chifa, Garces Trading Company and the Waldorf Astoria Park City (Utah)
    Favorite dessert to make: Custards, most specifically ice cream! I'm weird - I love tempering eggs.
    Weirdest dessert request: Crème brûlée TO GO. Makes me shake my head every time.
    Favorite sweet to eat:  My mémère's (grandma’s) whoopie pie cake. Hands down, best cake on the planet.
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: Apres-meal, any Vetri place. The choco taco at Alla Spina and the polenta budino at Osteria are both delicious. For just sweets, Franklin Fountain or any bakery in Chinatown. Yes, I want all of the coconut cream buns, please and thank you!

  • Danielle Amabile, Oyster House

    Pastry cred: Pastry chef for seven years, baking much longer than that
    Favorite dessert to make: Ice cream. But really, anything that comforts the soul makes me happy.
    Weirdest dessert request: I've made some phallic cakes over the years... pictures upon request ;).
    Favorite sweet to eat: I'm a sucker for ice cream. And things that have a bit of savory flavor in them - salty sweets are my go to. And crushed up cookies on everything. Gotta have some crunch.
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: I love the pecan pie at Percy Street Barbecue.

  • Peter Scarola, R2L

    Pastry cred: 13 years, in Chicago, Providence, Virginia and the Caribbean, then in the Philly area at Lacroix, St. Peter’s Village and Rae
    Favorite dessert to make: Ice creams, tarts or anything with chocolate
    Weirdest dessert request: Curry soufflé, on the menu at Everest in Chicago. Weird but good!
    Favorite sweet to eat: Pear-almond tart or chocolate chip cookies
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: Capogiro, Franklin Fountain, Sbraga (get the dirt pudding). I've heard great things about Kermit's Bake Shoppe

  • Kate Jacoby, Vedge

    Pastry cred: 11 years professionally, all self-taught next to husband-chef Rich Landau
    Favorite dessert to make: Our cheesecake. I'm the only one who makes it - secret recipe. I don't even know if I could teach anyone because it's all about taste. I feel like that cheesecake is a family member.
    Weirdest dessert request: Penis cake. It was a bachelorette party. I did not watch them cut it.
    Favorite sweet to eat: I love chocolate, and I love cookies. But I definitely have less of a sweet tooth than I did back in the day - now I pace myself.
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: The traditional French execution at Bistrot La Minette is impressive. The tapioca pudding served in a young coconut at Alma de Cuba. And Jason Chichonski's Ela offers some really adventurous dessert ideas - just have to make sure he's not stuffing them with foie! I'm also really excited for Andrea Kyan's Pure Sweets to open in Rittenhouse.

  • Peter Whitley, Four Seasons Philadelphia

    Pastry cred: Five years, first in St. Louis and then in Philly since August 2013
    Favorite dessert to make: I have yet to figure out the perfect answer. One of the benefits of working in a hotel is the variety in each day.
    Weirdest dessert request: White chocolate wasabi mousse dome with candied squid, for an event at the Academy of Natural Sciences
    Favorite sweet to eat: Chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: R2L has a great dessert menu that I really enjoy.

  • Kristen Piano, Supper and Global Dish Caterers

    Pastry cred: Eight years, including time at Susanna Foo, Chick's Social, The Capital Grille and Social Sweets
    Favorite dessert to make: Unique cakes that challenge me creatively
    Weirdest dessert request: A cake that looked like Pinhead from Hellraiser
    Favorite sweet to eat: Baklava
    Other places to find great desserts in Philly: I'm a huge fan of the budino at Barbuzzo. Also the desserts at Vedge, delicious and so well-made you would never know they are vegan!

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Places Mentioned

Fork

American • Old City

Food26 Decor22 Service24 Cost$48
 
 
 
Alma de Cuba

Cuban • Rittenhouse Square

Food25 Decor26 Service24 Cost$50
 
 
 
Barclay Prime

Steakhouse • Rittenhouse Square

Food26 Decor25 Service26 Cost$76
 
 
 
Parc

French • Rittenhouse Square

Food24 Decor26 Service23 Cost$45
 
 
 
Capogiro Gelato Artisans

Ice Cream Shop • Washington Square West

Food28 Decor16 Service21 Cost$9
 
 
 
Serpico Restaurant

American • Bella Vista

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Percy Street Barbecue

Barbecue • Bella Vista

Food22 Decor19 Service22 Cost$29
 
 
 
The Franklin Fountain

Ice Cream Shop • Old City

Food27 Decor25 Service24 Cost$10
 
 
 
Capogiro

Ice Cream Shop • East Passyunk Crossing

Food28 Decor16 Service21 Cost$9
 
 
 
Capogiro Gelato Artisans

Ice Cream Shop • Spruce Hill

Food28 Decor16 Service21 Cost$9
 
 
 
La Calaca Feliz

Mexican • Fairmount

Food22 Decor23 Service21 Cost$36
 
 
 
Barbuzzo

Italian • Washington Square West

Food27 Decor21 Service24 Cost$43
 
 
 
The Continental Mid-town

Eclectic • Rittenhouse Square

Food23 Decor24 Service21 Cost$35
 
 
 
Supper

New American • Bella Vista

Food25 Decor23 Service23 Cost$50
 
 
 
Jones

American • Washington Square West

Food23 Decor23 Service23 Cost$30
 
 
 
R2L Restaurant

Rittenhouse Square

Atmo.25 Decor24 Service22 Cost$62
 
 
 
Bistrot La Minette

French • Queen Village

Food26 Decor23 Service25 Cost$52
 
 
 
Lacroix Restaurant

Eclectic • Rittenhouse Square

Food27 Decor27 Service28 Cost$77
 
 
 
a.kitchen+bar

American • Rittenhouse Square

Food23 Decor21 Service21 Cost$46
 
 
 
Le Virtù

Italian • East Passyunk Crossing

Food27 Decor22 Service23 Cost$49
 
 
 
Talula's Garden

Organic • Washington Square West

Food27 Decor27 Service25 Cost$63
 
 
 
Alla Spina

Italian • Spring Garden

Food25 Decor25 Service22 Cost$28
 
 
 
Vernick Food & Drink

American • Rittenhouse Square

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Capogiro Gelato Artisans

Ice Cream Shop • Rittenhouse Square

Food28 Decor16 Service21 Cost$9
 
 
 
Oyster House

Seafood • Rittenhouse Square

Food24 Decor22 Service22 Cost$41
 
 
 
Talula's Daily

Cafe • Washington Square West

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
High Street on Market

New American • Old City

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
 
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