Baker’s ‘Sweet Passion’ drives biz in NHP

Baker’s ‘Sweet Passion’ drives biz in NHP

Johnny Ciminna first learned the tricks of the pastry trade in his parents’ kitchen, and then in their Bayside, Queens, bakery.

Now he’s brought his family’s traditions to New Hyde Park in Sweet Passion Desserts, his newly renovated Italian “pasticceria” at 1200 Jericho Turnpike complete with gelato, espresso and dozens of pastries, including custom cakes.

“Whoever saw what it used to be, they should definitely come down to see what it is now, cause really it’s night and day,” said Ciminna, 35.

A Maspeth, Queens, resident, Ciminna took over the 1,400-square-foot space last December, replacing SweeTart Bakery Cafe, a Greek bakery that the former owner wanted to sell after about three years, he said. He operated under that name until he could update the storefront in June, and the renovation followed in July, he said.

Ciminna gets about 60 percent of his business from custom sculpted cakes — “art with sugar” — that run from $100 up to $5,000, he said. TV shows such as “Cake Boss” and “Ace of Cakes” have made those cakes more popular, he said, but few people understand how much time and money goes into them.

“I’m doing customized work where you’re not going to get that in the ordinary corporate bakery. That’s what I want be known for,” Ciminna said. “That’s where I want to stand out and people respect the art and the hand-craftsmanship that goes into the art and creativity of my work.”

Born in Sicily, Ciminna worked for about 10 years in his parents’ bakery. They also owned a bakery in Sicily, he said, and the family returned often when he was growing up. Ciminna went back himself to learn to make gelato, he said.

“A lot of the passion and the experience and being around the food, it was always there’’ growing up, Ciminna said. “So if you wanted to learn all you had to do was just step up.”

He sells made-from-scratch gelato at Sweet Passion, along with cupcakes and more than 20 varieties of pastries, including cannoli, tiramisu and eclairs, he said.

Ciminna joins a large Italian population in New Hyde Park and said he recently joined Cellini Lodge No. 2206, the local chapter of the Order Sons of Italy in America.

He was also chosen as the pastry person for Cellini Lodge’s annual Italian Feast at Michael Tully Park later this month, said Jerry Baldassaro, president of the New Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

Both Ciminna’s Italian specialties and his custom cakes should help him find a “niche market” in the New Hyde Park area, Baldassaro said.

“As they say the proof’s in the pudding — well in this case, the proof is in the pastry,” Baldassaro said.

Sweet Passion Desserts will mark its grand opening at noon on Saturday, Aug. 13. Gelato starts at $2.75, miniature pastries cost $1.75, cupcakes cost $2.50, large pastries cost $3.50 and premade cakes start at $22. Custom cakes start at $5 per serving.

By Noah Manskar

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