Christmas 2014.

ISGRO PASTRIES

We will be Providing Tents to keep our Customers Dry on Tuesday December 23, and Wednesday December 24, 2014.

We also have plenty of additional staff to move you in and out Quickly.

Merry Christmas and God Bless you. Gus Isgro and Family.

About Isgro Pastries

Founded in 1904, Isgro is the oldest family owned pastry shop in Philadelphia. Gus, grandson of the original owners, Mario and Crucificia Isgro, with the help of his extended family, continues to produce traditional Italian pastries the old-fashioned way. Mr. Isgro attributes his bakery’s success to his love of fine Italian pastries, quality control, maintaining a size that ensures the best possible products, and having the discipline to remove pastries from the shelf immediately when they are no longer fresh. There are no short-cuts. Everything is handmade using natural, highquality ingredients. Isgro’s is the only bakery in Philadelphia that still hand-fills your cannoli with a spoon after you’ve decided whether you prefer the ricotta, chocolate, or vanilla cream filling. Unfortunately, zucca, a once common ingredient in cannoli fillings made from watermelon rind, is no longer readily available.
Uncle Vito is in charge of the signature dessert which is an excellent Rum Cake (Cream Cake) decorated with creamy ricotta and sliced almonds. The traditional coating of marzipan is available for this cake upon request. Sfogliatella is pastry in the shape of a clam, made with layers of light crispy pastry, filled with ricotta, and flavored with the zest from oranges and lemons.

Many Italian desserts are only made for certain occasions, but since Zepolli (or St. Joseph Cake) is so popular, Isgro’s carries it year-round. It is made from dough similar to a French cruller that is deep fried, coated with cinnamon sugar, and filled with Italian cream or ricotta. Ash Wednesday brings Pignolata, a confection with pignola (pine nuts), and Christmas and Easter dessert offerings wouldn’t be complete without Ricotta Pie. Other favorites are strawberry shortcake, miniature fruit tarts, cheesecake, and special occasion cakes in many styles.

Featured in “Specialty Shops: Bagels, Breads, and Pastries”

Sweet by Design

Gus Isgro, whose family founded Isgro’s Fine Pastries, 1009 Christian St., over 100 years ago, has been In the business all his life. He, too, has seen how tastes have changed within the past 10 years’
“Our all-butter pound cake is still number one and Italian cream is big, but we also have orders for customized cakes,” he says. “We do all kinds of decorations, from traditional to Victorian.”

But taste is as important as beauty, notes Isgro.

“We make a rich chocolate cake filled with ganache and European raspberry jam and frosted with a light butter cream. Another unusual cake is a hazelnut genoise, which is light and airy and filled with hazelnut butter cream, with or without apricot.

Isgro explains his butter cream is light and not airy, and is similar to rolled fondant. His staff can make bows and ribbons – anything the customer wants. Some of his customers want a wedding cake trimmed with fresh flowers or fruit.

“The most important factors are the cake’s attractiveness and the taste,” he says. “We’ve made a hazelnut cake with almond frangipani, which is whipped light and filled with raspberry and apricot jam.”

For the chocolate lover, Isgro describes a wedding cake that fills the bill for taste and decoration.

“It’s a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and layered with bananas and strawberries and covered with butter cream. It makes quite an impact the moment it is cut.”

By Phyllis Stein-Novack, featured in “Review Newspapers Spring Weddings” Feb. 1999

Basket Not Required

Part of the Easter holiday tradition of many South Jersey natives is a trip for specialty items to Philadelphia’s Italian Market and a stop to Isgro Pastries on Christian St.
Isgro’s bakery gets so busy on Easter weekend that the owners hire a police officer to direct traffic on Christian Street.

Gus and Lucille Isgro, who live in Haddon Township, continue a 94-year family tradition of making four different kinds of ricotta pies, two kinds of sweet Easter bread, and marzipan lambs in their bakery.

Some of the best-selling kinds of ricotta pies are the less traditional chocolate chip, melon rind and almond, says Gus Isgro, The bakery also sells the traditional ricotta pie flavored with lemon zest.

Isgro also makes the pastera, a traditional grain pie made with tealed wheat and heavy cream. Very few bakeries used tealed (or very clean) wheat because it is hard. But it tastes better, Isgro says.

Many customers ask for the savory ham pie, Isgro says, which is prepared with a few different cheeses, tavern ham and pepperoni. Isgro, sells the ham pie by the pound.

Isgro’s Easter bread is “almost challah-like” and is yolk based. He uses anise and non-alcoholic rum, and sells two versions:braided and in the shape of a cross with hard-boiled, colored eggs.

One of Isgro’s signature items for Easter is the marzipan lamb, which the bakery makes in nine different sizes. The molds were crafted by Isgro’s grandfather decades ago.

“My mother (Mary) makes the marzipan lambs herself,”Isgro says. “She decorates them by hand. She’s the only one with the patience to do it.”

By Cheryl Squadrito, featured in,”Courier Post” April 8, 1998

Baker Finds Breaking Molds Difficult To Do

Lucille finally knew that Gus had adapted to South Jersey life when she found him feeding peanuts to the local squirrels at their Haddon Township home.
Gus knew Lucille finally was catching on to the vagaries of city life when she could calmly drive across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to work in his South Philadelphia business.

Before their marriage eight years ago, it was as if Lucille and Gus lived in two countries. That’s just the way it is with people deeply rooted on either side of the Delaware.

“Jersey’s the sticks.” “Philly’s a sty.” That’s the folklore perpetuated in the old neighborhoods, east and west. But Lucille and Gus broke a few molds. And it’s something Gus still finds hard to do.

As the third-generation proprietor of Isgro’s pastry shop in the heart of South Philly’s Italian Market area, Gus knows the weight of tradition.

He is still bonded to, the same recipes and cooking methods his grandfather Mario Isgro brought from Sicily 80 years ago.

Thing is, Gus keeps thinking about breaking part of that mold, too. He thinks about opening a grand European-style pastry bistro where people can sip cappuccino, eat pastries and watch bakers perform their art.

He thinks about doing it in Voorhees or Cherry Hill, or some other up-scale place where people don’t think that espresso is the quick-service line at the supermarket.

But when he thinks about it too much, Gus gets the same feeling he had when his wife, a South Jersey native, suggested that they make their home here – petrified.

“The idea frightens me because I still haven’t figured out how to be two places at one time. I oversee everything. And once you get into mass-producing a product, it’s difficult to retain the quality. And that’s the most important thing to me,” says Gus, as we talk in the family kitchen behind the store.

“Baking is a feel. That’s the art. Even if you don’t know the recipes, it doesn’t matter. You have to be able to know when something is right just by touching it. I know how to make pastry one way – the way my grandfather taught me.”

Gus uses the same techniques Mario Isgro honed in the kitchen of a Sicilian aristocrat neatly 100 years ago.

“My grandfather was the head chef for a baron and studied cooking in Vienna.” After the baron died, Mario came to America and in 1904 opened the shop on Christian St., near ninth.

Mario’s children Mary, Vito, and Sam, operated the shop before Gus took over after a long apprenticeship. Gus has been baking Italian pastry since he was 9 years old. “It would be 9 p.m. and my grandfather would say,’Come on Gus, I’ll show you how to make Sfogliatelli.'”

Thirty-one years later, Gus is still making the flaky cream-filled cake the same way. Why? “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Like the cannoli – Isgro’s specialty. “I still make the cream in a massive double boiler and cook it slowly. It’s the only way to make good Italian custard.” And like the Italian cream cake, “The sponge cake is critical. It has to be the right texture to absorb the rum without making it soggy.

“Uncle Vito still makes them, one at a time in his little space, and if you say, ‘Hey Uncle Vito, can you move over a little bit?’ he’ll just say, ‘No.’ “Why? Because that’s where he’s been making his Italian cream cakes for 60 years. He can’t make them any other way in any other place.”

So, when Gus starts to wonder about that bistro, he can’t help thinking about what his uncle represents. “It has to do with being comfortable in those old neighborhoods and believing things can’t get any better. But it also has to do with crossing bridges and finding out life on the other side isn’t so bad after all.

By Rosemary Parrillo, featured in “Courier Post”