It’s easy to get cozily complacent in the bubble that is College Hill, and for good reason — we have pretty much everything we need, from hip/creepy coffee shops to multiple Irish pubs to the GCB. But Blue Room muffins can only satisfy a sweet tooth for so long, and those cake pops at Starbucks are freaking weird. That’s where Pastiche comes in. Tucked away on a back street of Federal Hill, it’s a whole new world from our collegiate haven… Evidently, a world filled with fancy cake.
The chipper yellow awning and blue-trimmed storefront are reminiscent of cafés on the cobblestone streets of quaint European villages. A dining room that seats about 25 is flanked on one side by a working fireplace and mural of the Italian countryside, on the other by dessert crazytown. A big glass display case contains made-in-house cakes, which are sold whole or by the slice; trays and shelves and towers spill with more treats. Welcome to your dream.The whole set-up makes it super easy to grab something to go and pay at the counter, which is especially great on picnic-worthy days. Still, it’s worth sticking around for table service and a foamy cappuccino or peppermint hot chocolate. Full disclosure: ordering is incredibly difficult, on account of OMG DO I WANT LEMON MOUSSE OR TIRAMISU OR CHOCOLATE OR ____. Best approach: teamwork. Go as a group, have everyone get different things, and pass the plates all around the table so you all have a little of everything. Do this with people who do not have mono.
Regardless, take comfort in the fact that it’s near-impossible to order something bad. Southern pecan (that’s puh-kon, thankyouverymuch) pie is served warm and gooey aside a giant pile of whipped cream. The banana cream tart might be best explained with an infographic; equal parts slow-cooked bananas, thick vanilla pudding and insanely fluffy whipped cream, all drizzled with caramel for good measure, it’s the envy of church potlucks and fancy patisseries alike. And the strawberry shortcake, a special when we went, is extra-special thanks to the touch of lemon zest in the biscuits and tons of sweet springtime-y berries. But best of all is the torta di cioccolata, a flourless chocolate cake made with almond butter and served beneath a dollop of whipped cream (detecting a pattern?) and tangy raspberry coulis. Pro tip: grab it to-go on your way out (they’ll put the accoutrements in little cups); nosh in the Rock; is this real life?
Venturing beyond the slice, you’ll find many noble options. My favorite is the chocolate peanut butter brownie, which is dense and studded with crushed peanuts, then glazed with thin layers of peanut butter and bittersweet chocolate ganache. Brownies also come in regular and cream cheese versions. Then there’s the plenitude of finger food — tiny cookies, rugelach, tea cakes, lemon squares, coconut macaroons, biscotti — which are pretty good but unlikely to knock your socks off. A perk, though, is that they’re sold by the pound, which somehow feels less gluttonous than paying per piece.
All this does come at a price, and it can be hard to part with $7 for a slice of cake. But there’s a simple solution to that: eat dessert for dinner. BAM, two meals for the price of one… kinda like brunch, only even less healthy. What’s college without breaking all the dining rules you grew up with? Go on, live a little.
Getting there: Take RIPTA #92 to Federal Hill — a strange archway will welcome you to Atwells Avenue, a main thoroughfare — and get off a few blocks up on the corner of DePasquale Street. Pastiche’s street is parallel to Atwells Avenue, one block closer to the interstate.
High: As easy as it is to procure manifold carbs on campus, tracking down a really incredible dessert isn’t so simple. And so we romp to Pastiche, which fills the gaping hole in our hearts with a slew of sugary treats in a downright adorable, European-inspired café.
Low: To improve the dining experience, the management should consider implementing any/all of the following: dancing elves; mid-meal massages; cake that’s free and not $7. Seriously, though, there’s not much bad stuff to say about this place.
Bottom Line: Charming café, delicious cakes, abundant whipped cream, and the excuse to go on an adventure to Federal Hill — need I say more?