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Pasticceria Natalina--Andersonville's new Sicilian bakery!

Pasticceria Natalina--Andersonville's new Sicilian bakery!
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  • Post #391 - December 22nd, 2010, 11:30 pm
    Post #391 - December 22nd, 2010, 11:30 pm Post #391 - December 22nd, 2010, 11:30 pm
    I think relative prices matter and given that Great Lake is less than half a block away from PN, the prices of the pastries don't seem all that out of line when you consider the flavors and servings. A pizza (for 2-3) at GL can easily run $26 with a topping added. For that you can get maybe three of the pastries at PN (got a sesame bar dipped in dark chocolate for $8 today and a rich honey nut bar for $10 - wish I had picked up the pistachio dish in the fridge as well) which will generally each serve two for 6 portions of very tasty dessert. The pizza at GL is often extraordinary, and the pastry from PN has always been great so when considered in relation to other high end places in A'ville, the prices don't seem that out of line given the flavors they're producing.
  • Post #392 - December 23rd, 2010, 12:51 am
    Post #392 - December 23rd, 2010, 12:51 am Post #392 - December 23rd, 2010, 12:51 am
    Eight bucks for sesames and chocolate? You must be hopped up on somethin.
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #393 - December 23rd, 2010, 8:45 am
    Post #393 - December 23rd, 2010, 8:45 am Post #393 - December 23rd, 2010, 8:45 am
    Habibi wrote:Eight bucks for sesames and chocolate? You must be hopped up on somethin.


    Have you tried them (or even seen them)? Just wondering if this is the usual huffin' and puffin' or if it is based on actual experience.
  • Post #394 - December 23rd, 2010, 9:29 am
    Post #394 - December 23rd, 2010, 9:29 am Post #394 - December 23rd, 2010, 9:29 am
    Huffin and puffin.

    Seriously though. I will miss PN. I often stopped in on my drive home from downtown when I was stressed or needed something sweet and unique to console my oft-irritated (with me of course) girlfriend. Those pastries are special. And nearly unique in Chicagoland.

    Unfortunately I no longer live in Chicago. If I did, and perhaps if I am around before PN closes, I would head straight over and pick up whatever she is making that involves ricotta and some kind of citrus peel. Nearly always divine. And I'd pay eight bucks for it - hopped up or not.

    H
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #395 - December 23rd, 2010, 10:48 am
    Post #395 - December 23rd, 2010, 10:48 am Post #395 - December 23rd, 2010, 10:48 am
    PN and Great Lakes represent an interesting phenomenon -- GenX/GenYers taking ownership of an artisnal, time honored craft (craft, not art, but I respect craft maybe more), doing it perhaps as perfectly, as authentically as anyone in the Old Country, without compromise, then charging a f*ing high price. I think a big problem for the average LTH person (as opposed to the average consumer) is that we're spoiled. In a town where one can have tremendous hand-patted tortillas, scratch moles, unmatched birria, perfect pierogi, innumerable South Asian breads baked to order, burek that is almost incomprehensible in its hand-made construction, to name a few, all for a couple of bucks, folks have a hard time shelling out big dough for what is, mostly, dough. Natalia, maybe surprisingly, tells us not to trust these people, says that the stuff they use must be crap. (Certainly, no one could say it's easy, right, so inferior flour and butter must explain it.) Nah. Cheap labor, cheap rent, and lots of customers from the old country whose numbers dwarf the foodie crowd explains it better. And those steady customers, unlike the foodies, don't love em and leave em for the next big thing. PN is a great place and it has a place, it just isn't Clark Street. Until Oprah or Esquire secure its apotheosis, PN would do better on Oak Street or Plaza del Lago or Rodeo Drive.
  • Post #396 - December 23rd, 2010, 11:18 am
    Post #396 - December 23rd, 2010, 11:18 am Post #396 - December 23rd, 2010, 11:18 am
    JeffB wrote:GenX/GenYers taking ownership of an artisanal, time honored craft (craft, not art, but I respect craft maybe more), doing it perhaps as perfectly, as authentically as anyone in the Old Country, without compromise, then charging a f*ing high price.


    Interesting. I wonder often about the economics of some of these small businesses; it's one thing to discuss the rent, cost of ingredients, etc.- the things that are surface level and obvious. But, for example, in the Pierre Herme comparison brought up earlier, the contribution that a single pastry needs to make to his retirement, business insurance, etc. is negligible, since he likely has tons of catering orders, appearances, book sales etc supplementing. In Natalie's case, not so much. Perhaps after her initial success she was able to hire some actual financial planning/really take stock and discovered how incorrect her prices were. The mado conversation also reminded me how often business planning in restaurants seems to be plucked from thin air rather than researched and carefully tested.

    I don't love her arrogance, but I admire her talent, and her commitment to her conversion (to legit methods, rather than going back to cost-effective). This entire story brings a tear to my eye/reminds me of this old slate story I often send to friends that talk about opening their own place. I read it often to temper myself when contemplating my own restaurant someday. Gen X/Y: maybe we're not idiots, maybe we're just getting better at planning?
    http://www.slate.com/id/2132576/
    Last edited by gastrique on December 23rd, 2010, 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #397 - December 23rd, 2010, 11:48 am
    Post #397 - December 23rd, 2010, 11:48 am Post #397 - December 23rd, 2010, 11:48 am
    JeffB wrote:PN would do better on Oak Street

    Maybe there's a vacant storefront right near Sarah's. :lol:
  • Post #398 - December 23rd, 2010, 1:31 pm
    Post #398 - December 23rd, 2010, 1:31 pm Post #398 - December 23rd, 2010, 1:31 pm
    Also since there are so many cooks here did you ever consider making these desserts? Making cannolis is not rocket science but it does take some doing. Also the crosstata marmalata is not that hard to make. Its made from something called pasta frolla which is the closest thing to pie dough that Italians make. I had the best piece of this in the Ticino, Switzerland in Bellinzona (Italian Switzerland). It was a lattice crust cross between a pie, a tarte and a bar cookie and was made with apricot preserves. It was delicious. Check this link out. All in Italian but there are recipes in English. I think it would cost a few bucks to make this yourself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8v5a_BVctQ
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare
  • Post #399 - December 23rd, 2010, 2:22 pm
    Post #399 - December 23rd, 2010, 2:22 pm Post #399 - December 23rd, 2010, 2:22 pm
    JeffB wrote:Cheap labor, cheap rent, and lots of customers from the old country whose numbers dwarf the foodie crowd explains it better. And those steady customers, unlike the foodies, don't love em and leave em for the next big thing.


    Cheap labor certainly is part of it, and also, a factory-like efficiency that comes with specialization. If the same woman is trained to do nothing but make burek (for example) every day, she is operating at level of efficiency that a top chef wouldn't be able to do, better overall skills be damned. But the point about the old country customers is an interesting one -- I never considered PN to be an "Italian" bakery -- to me, it was a yuppified, 2000s-version of a patisserie that focused on Sicilian items. I grew up on the East Coast, in an Italian-heavy area (part of my family is Italian), but if you sent any of those old Italians into PN, they'd think you sent them to the wrong place. So, yeah, there's certainly an issue with PN playing to a foodie-only crowd, which does tend to love-'em and leave-'em. Without the steady stream of old timers that are attached to certain items (think D'Amato's and their pizza), it's hard to maintain a loyal customer base if the business plan is geared toward steady price increases.

    I wish Natalie opened more of a dialogue on what makes other bakery products inferior (other than that their products weren't made by her) that didn't include attacking the intelligence of Chicagoans, because I'm sure she has some points there. But for every two people who shop at Jewel's bakery, and don't care one iota that their .99 cent cupcakes were made with shortening, there's at least one person who frequents a bakery that doesn't in fact use inferior ingredients. Think of what Paula Haney could really do with a pie, if she herself spent two hours preparing each one with the finest ingredients. By making some compromises, and relying on a well-trained staff, she produces a marketable product that at least I'm happy with even if the crust wasn't likely to be made with Plugra or by Paula herself.
  • Post #400 - December 23rd, 2010, 3:03 pm
    Post #400 - December 23rd, 2010, 3:03 pm Post #400 - December 23rd, 2010, 3:03 pm
    ...agree with most of that, except for any suggestion that our Mexican masa mamas and Balkan burek babushkas are one-item automatons. The contary has been shown time and again at many corner restaurants, often documented here. Also, PN always struck me as an entirely Italian bakery, though my formative experience with Italian bakeries seems similar to yours. Not a completely apt comparison in terms of price or PR, but I see Cafecito as Cuban, too, though I grew up in coffee stained bodegas and cafes run by guajiros but Cafecito is far from that. PS, the point of that digression is that one can claim ownership of a foreign-to-you food culture and do it correctly and "authentically" by anyone's standard, as both PN and Cafecito do with similarly "yuppified" digs, big personalities, but different prices and results.
  • Post #401 - December 23rd, 2010, 3:59 pm
    Post #401 - December 23rd, 2010, 3:59 pm Post #401 - December 23rd, 2010, 3:59 pm
    I plan to visit PN before they close, because I firmly believe in the art of cuisine, and the skills of the most highly trained and inspired chefs in Chicago. I suspect that Natalie is one of them, and I don't want to miss this experience.

    But the issue is also operating a business, and here, I fear that our genius pastry chef has lost track of the factors that compel people to pay premium prices. It is not just the thought of pure excellence, it is also putting the interests of the customer front and center.

    Sometimes that means taking a smaller profit margin than you'd like. Sometimes it means being a BYO, instead of making lots of money on wine sales.

    I think the best examples of premium pricing that makes the customer feel strongly disposed toward spending their hard earned cash at an establishment are Schwa, which seems to elevate the dining experience to a counter-cultural event, and Hoosier Mama Pie Company, of which I am a dedicated fan.

    I never thought I'd pay $23 for a pecan pie. At least, I didn't think I would until I tasted Paula Haney's pie. Now I cannot imagine eating anyone else's! Why do I feel this way? Because when I stop by at the store, the staff are nice to me. I know that if persimmons are in season, I can order a persimmon pie, even if it isn't on the order sheet. Because when I asked for an apricot/blueberry pie this summer, Paula wouldn't take the order, because she could not guarantee that she had a quality supply of fruit. Lots of other bakeries would have cut corners, taken my money, and laughed about it. Paula Haney wouldn't.

    And for that, she has earned my loyalty.

    So I am willing to pay $9.00 for a life changing cannoli, but don't for a minute expect me to accept contempt for my other food choices as a means of developing my loyalty as a customer.
  • Post #402 - December 23rd, 2010, 5:59 pm
    Post #402 - December 23rd, 2010, 5:59 pm Post #402 - December 23rd, 2010, 5:59 pm
    I'm well beyond saddened by the coming closure of Pasticceria Natalina. The only reason I limit my purchases there is concern for the waist line. But I think Natalie's pastries are outstanding, often unusual, and challenging in that she offers flavors and flavor combinations that are far from typical. It's almost always the first bakery I visit when searching for sweets. At a lot of bakeries, I find certain items done well, other items which are not so good, but not at PN. Personally, everything I've tried has been at least very good and sometimes mind-blowing. And everything is at its prime, never stale. I congratulate her on her very demanding standards.

    I suppose she could have sold her pastries at lower prices if she did it on a much larger scale, in a cheaper rent neighborhood and had a little higher turnover. But the loss of PN will be a very sad day for Chicago. Does this mean that rice krispie treats, ding dongs and cornflake-based candies are what we will be left with? A $9 cannoli seems cheap when some idiot is offering me a cupcake with non-cooked, overly sweet frosting for $4 (fyi - my mom taught me to make these when I was 6 years old) or an overgrown rice krispie treat for $3 (probably made these when I was 7). Please, cut my hands off and save me. At the very least, I will soon be left to visit bakeries which offer macarons but fail to tell me that they're past their prime.

    As for her tweets, they amuse my sicker side. But I also often sense her frustration. She's very confident in her skills, she knows she's offering a superior product, and then she sees someone walking down the street chowing down on a cheaply made cupcake or the like, from a bakery making a good profit while she's struggling to get by. Hate her for wearing her heart on her sleeve and sometimes uncontrollably expressing her frustration of trying to run a successful business. But realize that when she's gone, we will be the losers. We will be the ones sipping McCormick vanilla extract and sucking down overly watered butter which fails to produce flakiness. Sad, very sad.
  • Post #403 - December 25th, 2010, 7:42 pm
    Post #403 - December 25th, 2010, 7:42 pm Post #403 - December 25th, 2010, 7:42 pm
    mailsf wrote:Bottom line: if you don't support her style and her prices and her business model, don't support her business. If you do, then enjoy the fruits of her labor. But don't go around calling a woman who works hard to make a product people will enjoy a "dick" - especially if you've rarely or never been to her shop.


    As I said, I have been there, and find her pastry incomparable. She certainly works hard at her pastry, but she seems to work equally hard at being a jerk. But, bottom line: she's entitled to her opinion, and I am free to to react to it. Can't dish it out, etc etc.
    As a mattra-fact, Pie Face, you are beginning to look almost human. - Barbara Bennett
  • Post #404 - December 26th, 2010, 6:29 am
    Post #404 - December 26th, 2010, 6:29 am Post #404 - December 26th, 2010, 6:29 am
    People's fortunes go up and down, some people's more than other's, and often but not always with the economy. When I read the Tribune article, I was rather surprised that there was no mention of the possibility that the recent economic downturn, rather than a lack of appreciation for the product, might have played a role in business falling off at PN. It seems to me that any business that's in it for the long term needs to be realistic about swings in the economy - though I've no experience in the restaurant/catering/specialty food storefront business world, so I admit I'm no one to say how much one should be able to weather.

    If I am reading too much into the tweets, may God and Natalie and LTH forgive me, but I find offensive the suggestion that I become more stupid when I become more broke. It's not that when I'm so short on cash that I have to scrounge quarters for gas money that I suddenly start believing that Rice Krispie treats are as good as what a pastry expert like Natalie can make. It's that I have to stop buying pastries and sweets for a while, or make them at home, or frankly, not even that. Sorry I can't afford to appreciate her art right now. There's a lot of art I can't afford to appreciate right now. I have a feeling I'm not alone in that.
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"
  • Post #405 - December 26th, 2010, 7:18 am
    Post #405 - December 26th, 2010, 7:18 am Post #405 - December 26th, 2010, 7:18 am
    For what it's worth, I recall reading that the success rate of new businesses is about the same no matter the state of the economy. About half make it past the five year mark, regardless. Ingenuity and other factors often help bridge the span. Consider the customer-driven fundraiser that helped the Depot Diner make it over the three-year hump.

    That said, as much as I admire her talents and strict dedication to quality, there are countless places around Chicago I think I'd miss a lot more were they to shutter. Take Burt's or Patty's, for example. They may not be better cooks, per se, but their cooking personalities are irreplaceable. Any bakery that approaches its craft like a science and aims for perfection runs the risk of sacrificing the personality of the food in the process, which is perhaps why Natalie over-compensated with the force of her own personality.

    Keep in mind that nothing makes me sadder than anyone closing their doors. I truly want everyone to succeed. But PN's contribution to Chicago I think was a lot more tenuous than Natalie made it out to be. We benefit and are informed as a city of food lovers from any number of shops and restaurants, from culinary peaks to hole in the walls, with purity of product and price just two of many markers we consider.
  • Post #406 - December 26th, 2010, 2:50 pm
    Post #406 - December 26th, 2010, 2:50 pm Post #406 - December 26th, 2010, 2:50 pm
    Is it just me or does even the announcement of the closing of PN smack of the preening of a drama queen...? They've made this decision 10 MONTHS in advance--if they wanted to continue, they likely have some options they could explor between now and then. Seems to me this isn't about finances or the economy or Chicago's ability to support such a FINE establishment but about our favorite patisserie princess wanting some attention. I just don't get it...
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #407 - December 26th, 2010, 5:43 pm
    Post #407 - December 26th, 2010, 5:43 pm Post #407 - December 26th, 2010, 5:43 pm
    It is a business, the owner of that business is responsible for everything. It has nothing to do with the public, in this case evidently they were just stupid, if you want to stay in business you have to be willing to do pretty much anything, because the the final reward will be yours. However once you blame others for your failures you are done.
    As for Patty's Diner reference that the people didn't appreciate her excellent cuisine, you know when she got all that press about being the best of everything it was her chance to move to Andersonville and be the success that her followers wanted her to be, unfortunately that is not who she was (or fortunately). However once again it had nothing to do with that people just who didn't appreciate her, it is about Patty who made her own decisions, which might have
    ultimately doomed her, besides being possibly just tired, don't do everything yourself Patty, it don't work.
    As for the article by Kpang, it is not about her, it is about him, discovering a sappy story about a woman who belittles her customers and... well just doesn't get it.
    I hope everyone who opens a business succeeds, it is pretty much totally up to them though, not us... I mean you us.
  • Post #408 - December 31st, 2010, 8:35 am
    Post #408 - December 31st, 2010, 8:35 am Post #408 - December 31st, 2010, 8:35 am
    I stopped in last night to have a cannoli as I waited for my table at Great Lake. It was excellent and worthy of a splurge. Both Natalina and Nicholas were glowing and the place had a descent crowd around 6pm. Business must have picked up for the holidays.
  • Post #409 - April 21st, 2011, 1:55 pm
    Post #409 - April 21st, 2011, 1:55 pm Post #409 - April 21st, 2011, 1:55 pm
    I was at a dinner party the other night at which the host served a torte from PN with apricot filling and toasted almonds and filberts on top. He couldn't remember the name, but it was delicious!
  • Post #410 - April 21st, 2011, 2:16 pm
    Post #410 - April 21st, 2011, 2:16 pm Post #410 - April 21st, 2011, 2:16 pm
    Stopped by Pasticceria Natalina this afternoon and the awning and signs for it are gone. There's still a bakery inside and whipped cream pastries in the window. We didn't go inside since we assumed that Pasticceria Natalina closed ahead of schedule. Is the place still Pasticceria Natalina?
  • Post #411 - April 21st, 2011, 2:27 pm
    Post #411 - April 21st, 2011, 2:27 pm Post #411 - April 21st, 2011, 2:27 pm
    Marija wrote:Is the place still Pasticceria Natalina?


    Yes.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #412 - April 21st, 2011, 4:55 pm
    Post #412 - April 21st, 2011, 4:55 pm Post #412 - April 21st, 2011, 4:55 pm
    stevez wrote:
    Marija wrote:Is the place still Pasticceria Natalina?


    Yes.

    Do we know, then, why the signage has been removed? I.e., is she closing the place in "stages," or has she changed her mind and decided to stay in business there but under a new name? (To name only two possibilities.)
  • Post #413 - April 21st, 2011, 6:47 pm
    Post #413 - April 21st, 2011, 6:47 pm Post #413 - April 21st, 2011, 6:47 pm
    riddlemay wrote:
    stevez wrote:
    Marija wrote:Is the place still Pasticceria Natalina?


    Yes.

    Do we know, then, why the signage has been removed? I.e., is she closing the place in "stages," or has she changed her mind and decided to stay in business there but under a new name? (To name only two possibilities.)


    I was in there last night and talked to her and they're definitely still closing, and might not be making pastry for awhile which would be unfortunate given the dark chocolate pistachio tart I had. They're not sure of the closing date right now, but likely in 2-3 months. They certainly had plenty of product yesterday and she didn't indicate imminent closure, so not sure why the awning is down. Hasn't been particularly windy here.
  • Post #414 - May 3rd, 2011, 11:59 am
    Post #414 - May 3rd, 2011, 11:59 am Post #414 - May 3rd, 2011, 11:59 am
    Pasticceria Natalina will cease to exist on May 22nd, 2011. Offering "final creamy mouth orgasms by reservation only."
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #415 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:25 pm
    Post #415 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:25 pm Post #415 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:25 pm
    Hopped Up wrote:I was in there last night and talked to her and they're definitely still closing, and might not be making pastry for awhile which would be unfortunate given the dark chocolate pistachio tart I had. They're not sure of the closing date right now, but likely in 2-3 months. They certainly had plenty of product yesterday and she didn't indicate imminent closure, so not sure why the awning is down. Hasn't been particularly windy here.

    My friends brought over some PN desserts for dinner last month: the dark chocolate pistachio tart, lemon tart, and maybe a strawberry tart. Although, I am a fan of the pine nut loaf, I was not impressed with these tarts at all. I think the dark chocolate pistachio tart would've been better if it was a softer ganache filling instead of the hardened chocolate.
  • Post #416 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:40 pm
    Post #416 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:40 pm Post #416 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:40 pm

    I've already got a request in for the cannoli recipe.

    I never cared for cannoli before PN's.

    I hope N & N's next adventure brings pure joy to them.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #417 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:42 pm
    Post #417 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:42 pm Post #417 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:42 pm
    For those who haven't bothered to click the link, you can add your email address to be notified of future projects, including an upcoming cookbook.
  • Post #418 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:44 pm
    Post #418 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:44 pm Post #418 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:44 pm
    Darren72 wrote:For those who haven't bothered to click the link, you can add your email address to be notified of future projects, including an upcoming cookbook.


    Do I need to take a class first?
    As a mattra-fact, Pie Face, you are beginning to look almost human. - Barbara Bennett
  • Post #419 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:56 pm
    Post #419 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:56 pm Post #419 - May 3rd, 2011, 2:56 pm
    Darren72 wrote:For those who haven't bothered to click the link, you can add your email address to be notified of future projects, including an upcoming cookbook.
    Will emails be sent at some later date so that we can log in to a special website and click refresh repeatedly, hoping to pay in advance for a $7 cannolo?

    -Dan
  • Post #420 - May 3rd, 2011, 3:10 pm
    Post #420 - May 3rd, 2011, 3:10 pm Post #420 - May 3rd, 2011, 3:10 pm
    I've already got a request in for the cannoli recipe


    I remeber originally PN claimed the ricotta for the cannoli was sheeps milk ricotta flown in from Sicily. Could be expensive.

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