Day after day, bakery customers across Buffalo line up for a regional delicacy that has existed longer than Buffalo wings have been served at the Anchor Bar.
The pastry heart has quietly been a fixture for decades on bakery shelves across the region, and is especially popular at Valentine’s Day and Easter. And the sweet delicacy – flaky, buttery, airy French pastry dough shaped into a large heart, baked and covered in white frosting – apparently can’t be found outside the Buffalo area.
“If you go to Rochester or Syracuse, forget it. You don’t even find them there,” said Frank Albanese, the late owner of Luigi’s Bakery at 83 Forest Avenue.
What has made the pastry heart so popular?
“People say they’re as big as their face,” said Domi Emer, marketing director of E.M. Chrusciki Bakery in Lancaster (80 West Drullard Avenue) and at the Broadway Market (999 Broadway), which has baked them for three decades and routinely fields calls from expatriates living out of state and looking for a taste of home.
The pastry heart’s exact origins in Buffalo remain baked in mystery. Albanese lived in the same house he grew up in on the city’s West Side since 1961, and recalled other now-closed neighborhood bakeries like Virginia Pastry Shop offering them back then; Luigi’s started selling them in 1977.
The pastry heart has been a mainstay at Eileen’s Centerview Bakery in West Seneca (465 Center Road) since it opened in 1964, according to third-generation owner Carol Parker. One 83-year-old baker there, Danny Chudoba, has been making them there since it opened – and baked them at other bakeries before Eileen’s, too.
Eileen’s offers both “party size” mini hearts and full-size pastry hearts. Early each morning, the staff rolls a giant piece of dough out onto a table and hand-cuts and folds each piece. The key to the pastry heart’s popularity is in the quality of its ingredients and preparation, Parker said.
“There’s an art to it. It’s all in the folding of the dough,” Parker said. “You have to make sure the dough is evenly rolled out. It’s like a puzzle.”
Other spots to purchase pastry hearts around Buffalo this Valentine’s Day include:
DiCamillo Bakery – 5329 Main Street, Williamsville
Kaylena Marie’s Bakery – 4236 N. Buffalo Street, Orchard Park
Ohlson’s Bakery – 8500 Sheridan Drive, Clarence