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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