The Cozy Cannoli could hardly be situated in a less cozy-looking shopping center just off of High Point’s North Main Street, but quaint bistro seating, a snug lounge area and warm welcomes quickly shift a newcomer’s perception.
Shades of gray blanket the walls with black and white accents and bursts of hot pink, most conspicuously a gold-studded magenta couch across from two black armchairs. Playful pig figurines pose throughout the shelves and counters.
“I’m the pink, she’s the grey,” Lucy D’Egidio said, referring to her daughter Lexi. Together, they co-own the European-inspired bakery, which opened last November.
Lexi grew up in the kitchen of her first-generation Italian-American mother but didn’t see herself pursuing a career in food until exposure to the culinary arts at Greensboro’s Weaver Academy led her to GTCC’s culinary program. She specialized as a pastry chef and took advantage of opportunities to travel and intern in Europe and Africa, picking up expertise and inspiration along the way.
“She comes up with really unique flavors,” Lucy said. “She’s got a really creative mind when it comes to picking flavors and what people like.”
Any mother might praise a daughter and business partner, but it’s apparent from scanning the counters that Lexi enjoys flexing her creative muscles between the lemon, lavender and almond macaroons, grapefruit tarts and special limoncello cannoli filling. She thrives when working with customers to realize their dream cakes. Lexi crafts everything from traditional carrot cake to Italian cannoli cake to fresh fig and cardamom cheesecake. Lexi describes baking as her creative outlet.
“I like to play and push the limit a little,” Lexi said. “It’s a balance between getting to experiment and do cool new things and having to make certain things that pay the bills. I’ll sell 10 pieces of cheesecake before I sell one panna cotta so I love having adventurous people because it’s nice getting to experience their first experience with some of the stuff we bake here. Those are the customers that really make my day, who let me guide them.”
On any given day, customers will find a cold display case stocked with bread pudding, vanilla bean crème brûlée, creampuffs with tiramisu filling, and counter space populated with pizzelle and other cookies, cupcakes, napoleons, pastel de nata and homemade caramels.
Most traditional desserts at the Cozy Cannoli aren’t staples of everyday Italian-American life — they’re typically prepared for celebrations and during the holidays.
“Holidays are big in our culture,” Lucy said. “That’s when all the women are in the kitchen, which brings kids into the kitchen to make these cookies. Our holidays… are about enjoying life and family, whereas here in America you feel rushed from one thing to another; one job to another. I have to get my eight hours in whereas, in Europe, they don’t care. They want to sit outside and enjoy that cup of coffee.”[pullquote]Learn more at thecozycannoli.com and visit at 2107 Kirkwood Street (HP).[/pullquote]
The Cozy Cannoli features a full coffee and espresso bar, which the D’Egidios hope will encourage patrons to slow down and spend some time lounging with chocolate-hazelnut biscotti or madeleines. Lucy misses living in the New Jersey neighborhood that felt like a web of extended family, a sense of community she wants to cultivate in the bakery’s character. The D’Egidios also want to provide authentic Italian foods that are relatively scarce south of the Mason-Dixon.
“We had so much access to traditional foods up north,” Lucy said. “There was a bakery on every corner. Moving down here, and not finding the same culture, we resorted to baking our own breads, pastries and traditional stuff that we were used to getting all the time.”
Lexi bakes fresh rolls, baguette, brioche and rustic loaves daily, and otherwise reinterprets classic family recipes. The two women’s contributions balance and complement each other: Lexi adding twists to the family recipes her mother’s mother and three older sisters passed down; tempering her mother’s piglets and hot pink with a monochromatic base.
“We have a really awesome relationship,” Lucy said. “I was a single mom, so… we’re not only mother and daughter, but we’re also best friends and we keep each other in line.”
After 25 years, Lucy still works full-time as a medical coder for Baptist Hospital, which is part of why Lexi’s dedication and expertise are vital to the operation let alone the soul of the place.
“It’s a little stressful working full-time during the day and at night,” she said. “Even though I’m tired when I come in here, I enjoy that I can help create things and make people happy. In our nature, we’re both pleasers… We’re not trying to impress you, but we want to put a smile on your face.”
They aren’t out to price-gouge their customers either; the D’Egidios’ say that they set prices just high enough to break even, finish decorating the space and pay their employees.
To help keep the lights on and honor a family tradition of Sunday pasta dinners, Lexi offers a small group hand and homemade pasta-making class on Sunday afternoons, including the secrets to her marinara sauce recipe. Everyone takes home dinner for four. Looking to the future, her mother hopes to integrate more savory lunch options similar to Italian street foods served bistro style.
“I wasn’t so proud of my culture growing up, but I have more of an appreciation now,” Lucy said. “I think my parents being immigrants made me who I am and her who she is. We’re both strong, independent, stubborn Italian women. We are determined not to fail.”