A Bite of Italian: Mazzola Bakery
Mazzola Bakery in Carroll Gardens. Photo by Rich Edwards Imagery.
As if Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill weren't cute enough, they also seem to have the lockup on old time Italian bakeries. As an adult, my love of bakeries is wide enough to warrant a serious conversation about cookies, but growing up in the San Fernando Valley, my upbringing was limited to Jewish deli's and the sprinkle cookie from Bee's Bakery. With this varied background, I brought along an expert, Rich, who had been casing the neighborhood all week.
Mazzola Bakery& Cafe sits at the corner of Union and Henry Street. There were locals standing about, both young and old, plus the occasional dog wandering around, nose to ground. With it's yellow and brown awning, ending in a cheery wave of red, and windows that piled deep with confections, bread and a white board listing the available pies, it felt both mirage and reality. There are tables out front and benches, some so aged they lean alarmingly to the side. According to the local blog Lost City, 192 Union Street was built by the founder, Nick Mazzola, who has his initials carved in the stone at the top.
Almond Horseshoe cookies.
What I like about Italian cookies is that many aren't sugary sweet, in fact most are both savory and sweet with enough fat to keep you satiated. Mazzola seemed to have a little of everything: biscotti, anisette cookies, brutta ma buoni (a meringue cookie with nuts), almond horseshoes, chocolate-dipped biscotti, Florentines and cannoli. There are also pastries, muffins and bread, but we stayed focused.
A wealth of cookies. Photo by Rich Edwards Imagery.
The first cookie I tried was the hazelnut biscotti, which isn't an eye-catching cookie, but I liked it. It was crunchy, and hard with giant pieces of hazelnut throughout. It was a cookie best eaten outside, so you can leave behind crumbs for the dogs. Rich was not a fan, noting that they "looked like miniature ciabatta bread rather than the classical biscotti shape." His favorite were the "brutto ma buoni" (ugly, but good), which he said, "were dry, slightly sweet, very hazelnutty, and great with an espresso or cappuccino." We were also split on the almond horseshoes. He thought they felt too much like a sugar cookie, but with a nice taste and dusting of almonds. For me they were crispy and almondy, which I liked, although when dunked in tea they became too soft. We agreed on the Florentine, a lattice-shaped cookie coated in chocolate, that was just not crisp enough for either of us, however I didn't eat mine until several hours later, so I don't know if it was the wait time, or the cookie.
Chocolate-dipped almond biscotti. Photo by Rich Edwards Imagery.
The bakery also makes lard bread, pretzels and rolls, which all seem to be a hit on their Yelp page. Also, one block away from Mazzola is where they filmed the bakery scenes for one of my favorite movies, "Moonstruck," at Cammareri Bros. Bakery. I guess I know where I'm going next weekend.