Bakery offers a taste of Sicily

August 7, 2009 (CHICAGO) There are plenty of mom-and-pop bakeries up and down Harlem Avenue, but for some reason, a friend of food reporter Steve Dolinsky always told him to stop by the Palermo Bakery, in the tiny Schorsch Village neighborhood, just north of Belmont. So, Dolinsky invited his friend, Mario Rizzotti, to join him they literally ate their way through the shelves.

"I do love specifically the pistacchio amaro, which is an almond paste. Actually it takes 3 days to make, which is fantastic. One day they make it, the second day it has to rest, the third day it can be cooked. And it is basically a bittersweet flavor of pistachios and almonds in your palate, which is fantastic," said Rizzotti.

The bakery is a family affair, and they work seemingly around-the-clock, producing some 70 kinds of cookies everyday, as well as Sicilian specialties like cassata siciliana, an elegant almond paste and white cake border surrounding fresh, sweet ricotta with chocolate chips. That same filling is used for the homemade cannoli, which Mario swears by.

"The cannolis are fantastic. As one of the few places in Chicago where I also find the cannoli that they use candied fruit. Another time, unfortunately, I find they only use chocolate chips inside, which is not real typical of Italy. But this one is very unique. It has chocolate chips and candied fruit, but it is very, very good," Rizzotti said.

Even though there are plenty of sweets, don't overlook the savory creations. Fried rice balls called arancine are moist and filling. Pan con panelle is simply fried chickpeas between slices of hearty italian bread. Pizza also gets the Sicilian treatment. The bakery's sfincione is a revelation, moist-yet-crisp focaccia holds up fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions and anchovies, providing a salty contrast to the earthy sauce.

"Starting from the sfincione, which is the typical pizza that they make down in Sicily, and also, as we mentioned before, the arancine as well, they are very good," said Rizzotti. "They have certain specialties that are as good as they are back home."

When you go, call ahead to make sure they have the sfincione because it does tend to run out.

Palermo Bakery
3317 N. Harlem Ave.

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