Sunday, September 18, 2016

Review : Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop

Do you have a sweet tooth ? If you do, this book might be your next favourite read. Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop is a heartwarming tale with the goodness of Sicilian pastries.

Food writer Claudia Lombardo has sampled exquisite dishes by the world’s greatest chefs. But when she hears about the remarkable desserts from a convent pastry shop in the sleepy Italian hillside town of Santa Lucia del Mela, she wants to write a book featuring the sweets and the story behind their creator, Sorella Agata.

About the Book

Title : Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop
Author : Rosanna Chiofalo
Publication :  August 17, 2016
Publisher : Kensington Books
Genre : Women's Fiction
ISBN : 1617739375


Food writer Claudia Lombardo has sampled exquisite dishes by the world’s greatest chefs. But when she hears about the remarkable desserts that are created in a pastry shop operated out of a convent in the sleepy Italian hillside town of Santa Lucia del Mela, she wants to write a book featuring the sweets and the story behind their creator—Sorella Agata. But the convent’s most famous dessert—a cassata cake—is what really intrigues Claudia.
Everyone who samples the cake agrees it is like none other they’ve tasted. Yet no one can figure out what makes the cassata so incredibly delicious. Though Sorella Agata insists there is no secret ingredient, Claudia is determined to learn the truth behind the mysterious cake. As she samples each delectable treat—marzipan fruit, rich cream puffs, and decadent cakes—Sorella Agata relates the pastry shop’s history and tells of the young woman, Rosalia, who inspired her.
Kidnapped and separated from her family, Rosalia is subjected to a terrible ordeal—until the nuns find her. As she heals, she learns the art of pastry making, and soon she even finds love with Antonio—an apprentice in the pastry shop. But her heart still aches for the family she lost. And Rosalia knows she will not be whole again until she is reunited with them.
As Claudia unravels the secret of the cassata cake, she discovers a deeper, fascinating story—one that affirms food can do more than nourish the body…it can stir memories, heal the deepest heartaches, and even act as a bridge to those we love, no matter how far apart.

Read the prologue 


Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop narrates a beautiful story of love, loss and overcoming. Young Rosalia has had a traumatic experience which she overcomes by diverting her attention to the good things in life. She learns baking and engages herself in the pastry making at the convent of Santa Lucia del Mela under the guidance and companionship of the sweet Madre Carmella.

Rosalia's story may be bittersweet but it's both uplifting and inspiring. Each character in her story has a story of their own - bittersweet ones just like her's - and the little stories make the overall story very interesting. Rosalia's story of happy childhood with her family is heartwarming while the story of her young love later on is very sweet. The stories of Teresa and Mari, however seemed a little didactic. But the story within a story format has been very well executed by the author Rosanna Chiofalo.

What makes the book so special are the delightful descriptions of italian pastries that Chiofalo has used all throughout the book.

"...cassata - a Sicilian cake, originating from Palermo, and Messina, that consisted of sponge cake dipped in liqueur, layered with ricotta cheese and candied peel, and covered with a marzipan shell and icing; candied fruit in the shape of cherries and slices of citrus fruit topped the cake."

In fact, the pastries are metaphors with a deeper significance. The chapters are named after pastries, such as Fior di Mandorla, Frutta di Martorana etc and the titles hold the essence of the chapters. I very much loved the rich imagery of the the pastry making and the metaphorical association as well.

The story moves back and forth between the 1950s and the year 2005, and feels like a long but meaningful journey. Despite the Christian context that is intertwined with the story, this book may not be categorised as Christian fiction. In fact, it was interesting to learn about the pastry shop at the convent and how the nuns work devotedly to serve the best pastries.

As a bonus, the recipes to the pastries featured in the book are given at the end and I think Rosanna Chiofalo has been very sweet to do so. Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop has been one book I didn't want to finish and needless to say, it makes for a beautiful and thought-provoking read.

About the Author 

Rosanna Chiofalo is also the author of "Stella Mia", "Bella Fortuna", and "Carissima". An avid traveler, she enjoys setting her novels in the countries she's visited. A first-generation Italian American, her novels also draw on her rich cultural background. When she isn't traveling or daydreaming about her characters, Rosanna keeps busy testing out new recipes in her kitchen. She lives in New York City with her husband. Readers can visit her website at

Have you read Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop ? Or any other book by Rosanna Chiofalo ? Tell me all about it through the comments.

[ *I received an electronic ARC of the book from the publisher Kensington Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Book photo by Kensington Books.]


  1. Thanks for the great review, Priya! I feel like you completely understood where I was going with it :) !

    1. I'm so glad you feel so, Rosanna. Thank you so much for the beautiful book. I look forward to reading all the other books by you. :)

  2. Okay I found you! I do love this story. It was one of those that pulled you in and you never wanted to leave!

    1. Hey Pat ! Yes, you said it right - I didn't want the book to end. I re-read some chapters just so that I could linger longer in Santa Lucia del Mela. Now that it's over, the only thing I can do would be to read the other books by the author which I'm really looking forward to. I have actually developed an interest in Italy after reading this book. 😊

  3. Lovely review, Priya! This sounds like such an intriguing book and I do love stories that incorperate certain themes throughout the book - like the importance of cooking, here. If it's done well, it can really bring a story together so nicely and give it such a special feeling.

    Also, stories that show a range of sub-stories, alternating POVS ect. can be pretty spectacular and I really like the sound of the bittersweet tales told here. It sounds captivating and gorgeous and I'm so glad you had such a nice experience with this book. xx

    1. Hi Romi. I'm glad you found the book interesting and even intriguing from my review. As you said, books with certain themes that run all along the story are really special. I personally enjoy those kind of books the best. Thank you so much for dropping by.😊

  4. This sounds great. If you'd like you can link up your review here for a chance to win more books with food themes. Http://

    1. Thank you so much, Heather. I would love to read more books with food themes and shall be sure to link up my review. :)

  5. I have not heard of this author before today. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I'm glad you could get to know about Rosanna Chiofalo through my blog. Her writing is of great quality and I would definitely recommend her books. Thanks for dropping by. :)