I was once a cocktail waitress for about 20 minutes. So, I really understand how difficult it is when one ventures into the restaurant biz. Meaning, I really believe in stressing the positive aspects over any opening-night jitters which may cloud one's dining experience.
In fact, one of my positive qualities is that I never turn down a well-formed pastry. Remember the beautiful actress Lee Remick in "The Days of Wine of Roses?" Well, at the end of the film when that "BAR" sign is flashing, you know that poor woman is done. That's kinda like me when I see the word "BAKERY."
So, I was thrilled to walk into Toni Patisserie & Cafe, located at 65 East Washington and just across the street from The Cultural Center. I was greeted by a warm and youthful staff, trying hard to answer my litany of questions. Most of them were answered incorrectly -- but, that was on the first day the cafe opened.
I have now returned for lunch several times. There are still 15 people behind the counter and not all of them are quite sure what they're doing. My order of a warm Croque Monsieur turned into a cold Le Breton (a delish ham and gruyere baguette sandwich)....my small cappuccino was a large milky one (I was needing that espresso jolt more than the lactose)....and my carryout order of an almond croissant turned into a plain croissant...(I think Pret A Manger has better ones)....and I had to ask for a glass of water and napkins and a knife.
But, everyone seemed warm and friendly and requests were promptly accommodating. Hubby Walt is working the room and "signing the checks " -- while wife Toni (the pastry chef who has held court in Hinsdale) was laboring in the kitchen.
There is an undeniable charm to this Euro-style cafe. You can see exactly what happens when someone dares to transform years of dirt and dust from an old space into an oasis of calming cafe culture, steps away from Millennium Park.
You will feel like you could write a best-selling novel, accompanied by a fab scoop of the best gelato in town from Bucktown's Black Dog Gelato -- a smart and nice addition to the menu. There is a mix of office workers, passers-by, Pittsfield Building medical staff, artsy students and curious tourists peeking in the window at Toni's beautifully tiered cake creations.
This is an insulin lover's nightmare or the road to a major Twinkie defense -- either way, I will be back to visit Toni to sample some of her macaroons.
Toni Patisserie & Cafe, 65 East Washington