Walk into Dolci di Sicilia bakery, and you are pleasantly enveloped in the warm aroma of vanilla pastry cream and almond paste.
Sit at a wood table surrounded by buttercream-yellow walls hung with photos of Sicily. Pastries filled with sweet ricotta are laid out on trays in glass cases, and more trays on top hold doughnuts and star-shaped cookies dusted in sugar.
Owners Alessandro and Michele La Tona are from the town of Cerda, southeast of Palermo, the capital of the largest island in the Mediterranean.
The brothers learned the baking trade from their parents, who had bakeries in Sicily and Milan. They left Italy because of the bad economy, choosing Normandy Isles to set up shop after doing some marketing research.
Sicilian sweets are as wide-ranging as the cultures that once plied the ancient trade routes from the Greeks to the Arabs. Practice speaking Italian when ordering at Dolci di Sicilia or simply point to what you want.
Cannoli are the most famous Sicilian sweet consisting of fried tubes of pastry dough stuffed with creamy ricotta and tiny chocolate chips. Here they also come filled with lemon, pistachio or chocolate custard creams.
Cassata cake is sold in wedges and small individual cakes known as “virgin breasts.” The sponge cake is layered with ricotta, candied fruit peels and custard cream, enrobed in pale green marzipan, and topped with a candied cherry.
Sfogliatelle, meaning “leaves,” are shell-shaped pastries made with paper-thin mille-feuille stuffed with ricotta and custard creams. Diplomatica are like napoleons with crisp sheets of puff pastry filled with sweet ricotta. Crostata are apricot and strawberry tarts made with short crust pastry filled with jam.
On the savory side, arancini, or “little oranges,” are breaded-and-fried rice balls with ground beef; mozzarella and spinach; or ham and cheese. It’s a perfect accompaniment to a cappuccino in a place where you can experience la dolce vita every day.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.