Clara Louise Tea Room

I’ve been obsessed with food, restaurants, bakeries, and bars since I was about five years old. I grew up in an Italian American home in central New Jersey. My grandparents barely spoke English, and the household was very food and celebration centric. I was a shy child but when we went as a family to my favorite restaurant, the Clara Louise Tea Room, I would run to the doorway that went into the kitchen and peer inside, fascinated. Very daring for a timid kid like me.

We went there a lot- sometimes I would go with my mother and aunts for lunch, sitting downstairs at very feminine flowery glass tables. Other times I’d go with my parents, aunts, and uncles for dinner upstairs in a masculine room with hunting prints and lots of wood. There were waiters in red jackets and things like jellied consomme and sole almondine on the menu. Every year on my birthday, the waiters would bring me a piece of vanilla cake covered with fluffy seven minute frosting, colored sprinkles and a sparkler stuck in the middle. It was a great place and I guess it made quite an impression on me because I’ve been in the food industry now for 30 years.

As a pastry chef, I’m often involved in peoples’ celebratory events. I say “involved” but of course what I mean is that I make cakes or other desserts for them. It’s such an emotional thing, and cakes are so symbolic, that I often feel like I really am involved in a way that’s meaningful. It’s one of the nicest aspects of the profession.

When I tell people what I do for a living, they always seem charmed and fascinated. They get a wistful look in their eyes, thinking, no doubt, that if only they could do something creative and crafty for a living…I usually tell them that yes, it’s a great profession and I’m so happy to make beautiful pastries by hand and its wonderful to feed people delicious things and make them happy. But if they press me further, I can’t help but tell them that the food industry is crazy. Crazy!! Restaurant people are like circus people, for God’s sake. It’s definitely an alternative lifestyle, so if you are looking for normalcy, I tell them, look elsewhere. I’ve dealt with celebrity chefs, lunatic millionaire entrepreneurs, a philandering chef ex-husband, unbalanced employees, thieving literary agents, and the French. But I’m used to it by now. Besides, boring isn’t for me.

In any case, these days I’m pretty civilized, making pastries and desserts here at L’Arte della Pasticceria, a lovely little pastry shop and café in northern Bergen County. How I came to be in charge of the kitchen at L’Arte is another story, and what came to pass in the years in between the Clara Louise Tea Room and L’Arte is an even longer story.

I love cooking, baking, and eating, but I also love reading and writing about food. I develop all of my own recipes and I like to share them. So, I am hopeful that in starting a blog of my own, I will share my food experiences and knowledge, and interact with people that feel the same way that I do- fascinated and obsessed with the world of food and eating!