Sweet Scoop: 13 Pastry Chefs to Know in Philly

When you're in the mood for something sugary and special, these are the people to seek out
March 26, 2014
by Danya Henninger

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 + 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 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!

pastry chefs
le virtu
kate jacoby