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Holy Cannoli 

It was only going to be one bite -- just so I could get a taste. Then I was going to put it back in the bag, for when I had more time to savor the experience. But one bite quickly turned into two, then three, then four ... then -- gone. I'd eaten the whole cannoli.

Cannoli are a weakness. And really good cannoli are hard to find, so I don't get to indulge that craving very often. But now that I know about Palermo Bakery, I suspect that will change.

There are Italian-style bakeries and there are bakeries that serve Italian-style desserts. And then there are ... Italian bakeries, where things are made fresh daily from old family recipes, usually by the family members themselves. Palermo Bakery is an Italian bakery. It's one of those places everyone should know about.

Sure, its location doesn't exude Old Italy; it's tucked away in the Southern Cross shopping plaza, on the northeast corner of Nevada Avenue and Southgate Road. But once you're inside, you might as well be back in southern Italy -- the folks behind the counter are conversing amongst themselves in Italian, and the simple glass case is filled to capacity with authentic Italian treats.

It's sensory overload at its finest: rolls, pastries, big cakes, little cakes, tarts, cannoli, chocolate dipped cannoli, tiramisu, braided cookies, frosted cookies, more cookies, foccacia, calzones, things that look like giant fried doughnuts and a myriad of other yummy-looking and -sounding baked goods. Behind the counter, built into the wall, are baskets and shelves with an assortment of bread loaves and rolls.

Thankfully, the folks there are patient and willing to explain what's what. And maybe if you're lucky, there'll be samples to help with your decision-making.

I have to admit that I am also a sucker for tiramisu, a traditional Italian dessert made up of lady fingers soaked in espresso and a sweet liqueur, like Marsala, with layers of custard in between and chocolate shavings on top. Inspired by the cannoli, I had to try the tiramisu.

Once again, a pleasant surprise. Not only do you get an immensely large portion for your bucks, but it is the lightest, creamiest and fluffiest I've ever had. Some tiramisu can be really dense or too heavily soaked in the liqueur, making it soggy. But this was like taking a bite of a cloud -- an intensely flavorful cloud. It literally dissolved in my mouth.

Beware. This is addictive stuff. The one-bite theory won't work. Nor will the sharing concept, because you'll want every morsel for yourself.

To wash down their treats, Palermo's got coffee, espresso and cappuccino as well as sodas available. I tried their regular ol' cup of coffee and, much to my surprise, it was really good. Coffee not being their main gig, I suppose I had low expectations. But accompanied by a dense, cakelike braided dipping cookie, it was unbeatable.

Since my first visit to Palermo Bakery, I've been in there almost every other day. I'd make it part of my daily ritual if it were closer to home. But I'll guarantee, no matter where you live or work, it's well worth a visit.



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