Last week we told you about The Fine Grind in Little Falls. Today, it’s all about Palazzone 1960, in Wayne, near Willowbrook Mall. Worth the drive? Oh yes.
My parents’ families, both sides: 100 percent Italian. My husband’s families: same. I’m a fairly good Italian cook. I’ve been to Italy, and my hips will attest that I know a well-made Italian pastry or cookie. So I’m skeptical when someone raves that I must check out some new place offering Italian baked goods. Except that the person raving to me was a fellow skeptic, a far better Italian cook than I will ever be, someone who makes Italian pastries from scratch, for fun.
I had to go.
In the first 10 minutes I was inside Palazzone 1960, five different customers told me they’ve been returning, “every single day since it opened.”
There’s a reason, and I knew it with one bite.
A regular told me, “If you’ve ever been to Italy and tasted real Italian pastries and cookies, this is it. This is the taste.”
This is the truth.
This is also the place to hear Italian spoken by patrons and workers alike; and it looks like a modern Italian café too – a bit of art-deco modern; clean white, shiny, stainless, with expansive windows, sharp black accents, Lucite chairs around small tables.
But first, pastries.
Let’s start with the 44 foot long baked goods counter. Wary my eyes were playing tricks, I had to physically count the different varieties of (not-so-mini) pastries, and stopped at 36. Then there are the dozen or so large pastries, 28 different kinds of cookies, about a dozen different pies, and another 18 luscious cakes.
But don’t ask owner Giancarlo Palazzone, of Woodland Park, to give you a list of everything his month-old establishment puts in those long and wide cases each day. “Every day, every hour, we make more, new, different,” he explains, handing me another canolli. Reader, I ate it. Because after all, it had the most delicious cream canolli filling I’ve ever tasted.
You’ll find all the mainstays like Sfogliatelle (“lobster tails”), bocconotto, pasticiotto, and bombolone, and many more creative and unusual confections that don’t have names easily translated into American English. Pastries made from custards, cheeses, fresh fruit, mousse, chocolate, rum, caramel, almond paste; in tarts, rolls, tubes, shells; layered, mounded, whipped.
Let’s put it this way – name every Italian pastry. They make it. Name some that don’t exist but should. Chances are it’s in the case. You won’t leave with them in white cardboard bakeries boxes though, but with your choices prettily arranged on sturdy trays wrapped and tied in decorative, absorbent wrapping paper—a gift.
If you stay and eat your sweets there at the bright tables, lingering over a cappuccino, espresso or one of the other 12 coffees on offer, be warned, you’ll be intoxicated from the aromas snaking from the huge kitchen, where it turns out they make lunch too — six kinds of panini, six salads, five kinds of fresh hand-made pasta, priced from $6 to $13.
Giancarlo’s father ran a bakery in Clifton in the 1960s and 70s, before moving the family back to the Abruzzi region of Italy, where Giancarlo’s two brothers and sister now operate five Palazzone pasticerrias.
Like there, everything at Palazzone in Wayne is made fresh daily on the premises, using flavorings and other ingredients imported from Italy. The accents are real too, so be patient as the friendly, welcoming staff explains what’s in each luscious piece.
For the holidays, Palazzone offers a Pandoro Pannetone, a traditional sweet bread-like cake (with or without candied fruit baked in, pre-sliced and arranged in a staggered presentation that’s called a Chirstmas tree cake, decorated with cream and holiday-colored chocolates, and swathed in cellophane.
Ready prepared fresh Italian cookie trays are also lined up for quick picking (think office parties!), and if you need to swing in and grab a one-of-a-kind cake, the two tall refrigerated cases are so enticing, I wanted to crawl inside.
A row of shelves along one wall holds a small stock of imported specialty products including olives, mushroom and truffle sauce, polenta and risotto mix, olive oil, candy coated almonds, and dry pasta.
Wifi is not yet available, though may be soon. But really, this isn’t the place to work, but, as they do in Italy, to savor. Mangia!
Palazzone is open seven days a week, from about 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and will be open on Christmas Eve from 8 – 6, and on Christmas Day from 8 – 2. Cookies are between $9 and $11.50 per pound; mini pastries $1.25 each, large $2.50; cakes and pies from $14 to $35. To get there from the Montclair area, take Route 23 North through Cedar Grove and Little Falls; just past the traffic light for Willowbrook Mall, stay in the right lane and watch for the driveway before the split for Routes 46 and 80.