Sweet Tables

Il Giardino del Dolce in Chicago sees surging demand for dessert tables at weddings. “The days of a wedding cake for 300 people are over,” says Enzo Ventrella, whose mother, Maria, founded the Chicago bakery and whose sister, Angela, opened the family bakery’s second location 2½ years ago in St. Charles, Illinois.

“People usually want one wedding cake for 100 and then they add a sweet table.” The sweet table will often consist of assorted pastries and cookies, so guests can choose their own particular favorites.

For special events like weddings or corporate events, Il Giardino makes two kinds of large cannoli shells (each shell is filled with regular-sized cannoli): the jumbo, which holds 42, and the junior, which holds 18. An increasingly popular trend is serving large cannoli at parties, rather than one large cake. “Today’s customers are smarter and more demanding,” Enzo Ventrella says. “Especially nowadays, you’ve got to keep up with the trends.”

Cakes are another growing part of the Italian bakery’s business. More recently, Enzo Ventrella says they are getting more and more customers wanting three-dimensional and shaped cakes in custom designs. “I really enjoy doing the custom cakes. Now, people come in with our designs, and we do the custom designs on the cake. Their demands are a little more creative.”

A lot of bakeries may claim to be an Italian bakery, but it’s easy to pinpoint the real deal when you walk into a place like Il Giradino. The item list of authentic pastries goes on and on… cannoli, Sfogliatelle, Napoleon, Tiramisu, Ba-ba, Cassatini (marzipan and ricotta cheese with sponge cake) and Moncachini (cannoli filling inside a flaky pastry).

They also make dozens of varieties of butter cookies; two of their most popular flavors are fig and lemon Taralli. Sandwich butter cookies and assorted kinds of biscotti are other specialties.