Sweet Sweets! I had passed by the quaint little bakery on Louise Avenue (near Hollywood Video) dozens of times but had never had the pleasure of stepping inside. That is until one cold morning while waiting for my car to get a smog check nearby. I had a hankering for a hot cup of coffee and a pastry and with time to spare I thought I would pay “Sweet Sweets” a visit.
The moment I walked through the bakery doors, beneath the perfectly termed sign “The Sweetest Place to Eat” I was hit with the heavenly smell of baked goods. The wondrous aroma of freshly made muffins, danishes, cinnamon rolls, scones, and bear claws lured me toward the glass counter where I was greeted by a warm and friendly smile from owner Jahnelle Astorino, who asked if I would like anything. Boy, would I!
I settled on a cup of fresh brewed coffee and a croissant. I then planted myself at one of the half-dozen tables in the cozy shop and instantly got the “vibe.” This was indeed a perfect spot to set the tone before a crazy workday, or steal away for a luncheon getaway, or simply wind down in the late afternoon. Yep, this place really is the sweetest I thought, as I nibbled my flakey croissant and sipped my steaming cup of Java with contentment.
Having a chance to chit-chat with the owner, I learned that she got her start by baking cakes for her family and friends out of her home. News quickly spread about her fine baking ability, and before long more and more people were placing cake orders, filling up her weekends with non-stop baking.
The idea for having her own bakery had always been in the back of her mind but it wasn’t until one afternoon while enjoying a meal at Taqueria Manteca that she discovered the shop next door was available.
With a little effort and a ton of family support, Jahnelle Astorino opened her very own bakery/deli in July of 2008. When it came to deciding on a name for her shop, she knew right away that she would give it the nickname her father had given her as a child, Sweet Sweets. “My father has been my financial backing,” she says. “I thought it would be appropriate to use the name he had always called me as a child. I kind of wanted to say thanks.”
Deli portion offers signature sandwiches
While cakes have always been her specialty, Astorino decided to include a mouth-watering, lip-smacking deli and grill in her shop to meet the need of hungry customers. The deli portion of Sweet Sweets offers Signature Sandwiches such as a tuna delight called “Saltwater Charlie,” a ham and pineapple surprise cleverly titled “Big Kahuna” along with a powerfully packed roast beef, bacon and pepper jack cheese sandwich called “Jesse James,” and more. According to Astorino, the favored deli items by customers seem to be “Sunbird,” a turkey sandwich with bacon and avocado, sundried tomato pesto, mayo and loads of veggies, along with “Cowboy burger” a half pound, handmade burger seasoned with the owners’ special seasoning and layered with cheese, onion rings, bacon and trimmings.
As for the favored sweet treats at Sweet Sweets Astorino says, “It’s a toss-up between the cake parfaits and the banana and chocolate cream pies.” And here I thought my buttery croissant was to die for.
When asked about the best part of owning her own business, Astorino admits, “The most exciting part for me with this adventure would be meeting all the new people that come in here. Your regulars start becoming like family to you. It’s neat how you develop relationships with people.”
While developing a new family through Sweet Sweets has brought great joy and satisfaction to the young business owner, she also admits that working 12 to 18 hours a day in order to establish her business is quite challenging. Having to work such long hours has kept her from spending the amount of time she would like with her three children Alexis , 9; Sean Jr., 4; and Ty, 1. However, with the help of her fiancé, Sean Aquino, along with trusted family members who extend tremendous help and support with the children and in the shop, Astorino is learning to find balance as a mom and a successful business owner. “I thank the Lord for such a supportive family.”
With Sweet Sweets’ growing popularity, Astorino believes she may be ready to hire her first employee, “a good cake-decorator” to help meet the demands of the many cake ordering customers in the near future.
I picture Sweet Sweets being that “mom and pop shop known for its great food and pleasant atmosphere,” she confesses, and hopes that Sweet Sweets would become that word that everyone thinks of when they want a unique, scrumptious-tasting cake and deliciously delightful deli sandwiches.
As I finished my last croissant crumb and enjoyed my final swallow of coffee, I said good-by to the owner and knew I would be back to visit her “little slice of heaven” shop soon.
For more information about Sweet Sweets bakery and deli call (209) 824-2253 or email SweetSweetscake@aol.com.