Passionate pastry partisans, take note: This Saturday is your annual opportunity to stock up on tremendous treats at Paisano's Italian Bakery. The shop is closing for a three-week vacay starting Sunday, but before they go dark they're marking down prices to rid themselves of as many of their delectable delights as possible. Go early, buy a lot.
Of what? Pretty much anything made from flour and sugar. The bakery has been selling sweets for 18 years out of a Stickney Point strip mall that's home to a cell phone shop, an Irish dance studio, a Five Star Pizza, an all-you-can-eat sushi place, El Toro Bravo and a couple other businesses. The pastry case is immense, stretching the length of a stretch limo, with cookies, éclairs, tarts, brownies, pies, cakes, cupcakes, petit fours, tiramisù and dozens of other items piled on sheet pans lined with wax paper. It's a beautiful sight—a glowing diorama that pulls you toward it with magnetic force.
The pastry case has no prices, which makes it easy to drop major coinage on a box of treats. I pace back and forth, pointing out what I want till my to-go box weighs about as much as a Mini. Cookies go for $16.80 a pound, I know that, but other prices are a mystery. Overall, my forklift-necessitating box costs me $17.61.
Let's talk about some favorites. The zeppola—a pastry sandwich stuffed with tangy custard and showered with powdered sugar—is a hit, as is the lobster tail, a layered, curvy pastry in the shape of guess-what that's filled with that same custard. Better than real lobster? Possibly maybe.
Pignoli cookies are less overtly sweet, but are a perfect accompaniment to coffee, with a moist yet crunchy consistency and a pebbled texture that comes from the cookies' pine nut-studded exterior. Alfajores include a pair of cookies hugging a dulce de leche interior that are then dipped in white chocolate. A half-chocolate Nutella happiness cookie is larger and more satisfying, with a creamy dollop of the famous choco-hazelnut spread in the middle.
Cannoli tarts, meanwhile, come in a round chocolate shell, with an interior packed with chocolate chip-flecked cream. Sliding farther down the pastry case, you'll find whole cakes and pies, as well as slices. A triangle of peanut butter passion pie is about as big as a shipping container, with Reese's peanut butter chips shingling the exterior.
It may sound like I've consumed a lot of sugar at Paisano's, and it's true my hands are shaking and my foot is tapping maniacally as I write this up, but in truth I've really just scratched the surface. There are biscotti, hamantashen, bourbon balls. There are shortbread cookies, coffee cakes, cakepops. There's everything you'd want from an Italian sweets shop and a little bit more. You don't have to go this Saturday, but I'd gently recommend it. You wouldn't want all those palatable pastries to go to waste, now would you?
Paisano's Italian Bakery is located at 2732 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota, and is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and, from October to May only, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Call (941) 926-8422 or click here for more info.