Meet Carolina: Citarella’s Award-Winning Pastry Chef

Chef Carolina

From prestigious kitchens around the world — to New York City.

Aromas of fresh buttery brioche and dark chocolate linger, a stylish and precise French convection oven hums as warm air circulates within, and dozens of pastry cooks skillfully swirl sweet icing onto fluffy vanilla cupcakes and decadent layer cakes — Citarella’s pastry kitchen is moving with its usual, graceful efficiency. Amidst the choreography of tasks, one confectionery artist stands out: Chef Carolina. Sleeves rolled up she shows one of her pastry cooks how to temper dark chocolate before artistically shaping a delicate, curved chocolate wave for the top of a freshly glazed Maracaibo cake.

Always one to transform the ordinary into something special, Carolina’s journey began many years ago at Scuola Regionale de Saronno in Varese, Italy where she earned her diploma in pastry design. One of just two female students, she had to prove her ambition and talent — and, not surprisingly, she rose to the top of her class. After completing the program there, she went on to study professional sugar work and chocolate presentation at Etoile di Sottomarina in Rome, dessert presentation at Academia di Commercio e Turismo in Tuscania, and more advanced chocolate techniques at L’ecole du Grand Chocolat in France.

In the years following her education, Carolina worked in a number of highly acclaimed pastry kitchens around the globe: the Four Seasons in Tokyo, the Grand Hotel in Italy, the Four Seasons in Singapore, and more. Eventually, she made her way to Cipriani — and New York City.

carolina-2One day while flipping through the paper, Carolina saw an advertisement for Citarella. She remembers thinking to herself that running the gourmet market’s pastry kitchen would be the perfect job — so, she applied. A few months later, she was called in for an interview. That day, Carolina was given the opportunity to prove herself; she would have 3 months to show that she was capable. And, just like her culinary school days, she excelled.

She started by mentoring 25 pastry novices (helping them develop their kitchen skills) to create her team of talented confectionary artists. She worked with Joe (Citarella’s owner) to introduce top-of-the-line equipment throughout the kitchen — equipment that could produce results consistent with the gourmet market’s quality standards. She added new menu items to Citarella’s offerings based on her treasured family recipes and Carolina pitched innovative ideas for packaging and marketing Citarella’s outstanding handmade pastries: heart-shaped cakes for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, conveniently packaged items from the pastry counter, and more. She even participated in confectionery events, winning awards for elaborate gingerbread scenes and stunning chocolate showpieces. All the while, Citarella continued to expand, its pastry department gaining renown.

In 2011, Carolina was recognized further for her exceptional work: The Italian Academy awarded her Master Chef Certification in Italy for her tiramisu recipe — the same recipe she uses in Citarella’s kitchen today.

The award-winning artist who skillfully handcrafts elaborate cakes, delicate mini pastries, 30-pound chocolate Easter egg window displays, and more, Carolina’s favorite kitchen task is a surprisingly simple one: kneading dough. Her reason? It reminds her of the exact moment that she realized her lifelong passion for pastry — while making her first batch of homemade bread dough.