ST. CHARLES – The name of a St. Charles bakery might have changed, but the recipes and at least one face still are the same.
That face belongs to Stephanie Heitzman, owner of Dolce Bakery and Cafe at 131 S. First St. in downtown St. Charles. Heitzman was a clerk at the bakery when it was known as Il Giardino del Dolce, which is Italian for “The Garden of the Sweets.” She joined the business in spring 2011, about two years after the bakery first opened, and kept moving up.
“It was always in my plan to open a bakery, just not this early,” Heitzman said between serving customers on the afternoon of Jan. 8. “When opportunity knocks, you can’t really pass it up.”
Like the first installment of the bakery, Heitzman offers customers a variety of baked and other food items. On the sweet side, there are cakes, cookies, brownies, cupcakes and pastries. On the cafe side, there are sandwiches, paninis, flatbreads and homemade pastas. Specialty items include a large cannoli that holds 42 mini cannolis and a gelato selection that’s popular even in winter, Heitzman said.
The diverse menu helps her bakery stand out from others, Heitzman said. That’s something Sofia Flores of St. Charles noticed when she and her mother, Floria Castro, ate at Dolce for the first time. They had tomato focaccia and lasagna for their Wednesday lunch at one of the many tables inside the business.
“Most pastry shops just have pastries – I like having the savory options,” Flores said.
To make sure Flores and other customers walk away happy, Heitzman is typically at Dolce for 14 to 15 hours a day, six days a week. She has three employees who help her on the weekends and two more during the summer, she said.
Heitzman went from clerk to manager when the bakery was sold in September 2012 to Sean Glore, the man who originally shortened the shop’s name to Dolce. After about 10 months, Glore decided the business wasn’t for him, so he made a deal with Heitzman to have her purchase Dolce in installments.
Customers can still find some of the Il Giardino del Dolce products in Dolce because they are still shipped there from Il Giardino’s original bakery of the same name in Chicago, Heitzman said. She has continued to produce more of the bakery items in house, and she makes additional sweets available as seasonal items. Heitzman offered pies during Christmas and will sell cookie bouquets and decorated shortbread for Valentine’s Day.
Even with a full array of products, Heitzman wants to continue expanding the menu. She plans to introduce new lunch items this spring and has a long-term goal of offering breakfasts on the weekends. One customer that will likely be back for the offerings is Robert Smith of Oswego. He discovered the bakery this month when he was looking for a lunch spot, and he was back for another order five days later.
“I tried one of the snowman cookies and thought they were good, so I got some more for the kids,” Smith said.
If you go
What: Dolce Bakery and Cafe
Where: 131 S. First St. in St. Charles
Contact: 630-443-2497 or visit dolcebakerycafe.com or facebook.com/DolceBakeryCafe