When Corrado Palmieri opened his eponymous café in the Dallas Farmers Market in 2016, we could boast of having a proper Italian coffee shop and bakery that Dallas hadn’t had before. His was a place to linger over a cup of coffee and a pastry, where early on a cadre of Italian regulars set up residence on weekend mornings.
The coffee shop—a counter, really—serves a simple line-up of pastries, but they’re not the kind you’ll find sharing room with a muffin or almond croissant. In fact, they underscore Italians’ love of all things filled with cream. Palmieri, who is from the small town of Galatina, in the Puglian region of southern Italy, spent a year apprenticing with a baker in his hometown to learn to make the beautiful custard-filled domes called pasticciotto. They are a specialty that dates back several hundred years. He also makes horns called cannoncino, filled with lemony vanilla or milk chocolate pastry cream. Graffa are sugar-dusted, cream-filled doughnuts by way of Naples. Cornetti, a close approximation of a croissant, come filled with vanilla or chocolate pastry cream, too. At any train station coffee shop or buzzing city counter in Italy, you’d find these sidling up to foam-topped macchiatos and the creased folds of the daily La Stampa.
The former investment banker, who learned to bake with his grandmother and earned a business degree, saw a need he could fill in Dallas. “I thought, ‘It’s completely missing an Italian coffee shop,’ he says. “There’s plenty of French … but people don’t know what we do.’”
Months of researching flours finally led to satisfactory results. On the savory side, he makes calzones, with fillings of mozzarella and tomatoes or chicken, olives, and herbs. Savory croissants (those cornetti again) layer prosciutto crudo from San Daniele or prosciutto cotto and pecorino. The rustico, a puff pastry crown filled with mozzarella and tomato in a béchamel sauce, was one he was determined to capture. He remembers working in Milan and seeing the lines around the block for one tiny shop that sold the specialty.
Palmieri also serves a line-up of house-made gelatos that includes nocciola, using hazelnuts from the Piedmont region; a Sicilian pistachio with tremendous depth; vanilla with amarena cherry; and a magnificently decadent hazelnut gianduja.
The last piece of the puzzle was learning to roast his own beans. He apprenticed with a small roaster near Milan for espresso and then stateside with two roasters who helped him hone in on a drip-coffee roast. At his off-site Torrefazione Palmieri, he roasts an espresso blend and single-origin beans from Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia.
This is what he wanted from the time he was 15 years old, driving a Vespa through Italian streets: something he could build from the ground up. Now, his Italian hot-spot is from-scratch, from pasticciotto to espresso.