For every Southern Italian staple that found its way stateside over the years, Luke Ilardo said, “there are some weird or esoteric dishes that for some reason or another did not make their way to America in a mainstream way.”
Doppio Pasticceria, the Sicilian bakery he runs with partner Megan Cowman, specializes in some of the treats that have been lost in translation.
Inspired by the couple’s own Italian heritage and travels, they make a cassata, an Arabic-influenced cake filled with ricotta and decorated in green marzipan that reflects Sicily’s many millennia of conquerors and influences. And they offer their own spin on Italian American staples like cannoli, which Ilardo said is often served with far too much sugar.
Now, Ilardo and Cowman have even more space to grow their business. After selling their wares at area farmers markets, the duo have rented a stall at R. House, the Remington food hall, while they prepare to launch a brick and mortar shop across the street in the former Cahoots Brothers building.
Both spaces are managed by Seawall, but the Cahoots Brothers building is owned by Johns Hopkins. That building, at 300 W. 29th St., is getting renovated — outfitted with gas and a hood for the kitchen — but should be ready next year, Ilardo said.
Ilardo is no stranger to Baltimore’s Italian American food scene. His family ran Mama Ilardo’s Pizza, and he spent his teenage years working there.
Cowman grew up in Carroll County surrounded by farms. She’s Sicilian on her father’s side, and holiday gatherings always featured Sicilian staples. But it wasn’t until she traveled to the island in 2018 that she developed a more nuanced understanding of the cuisine and its intricacies, taking pasta and cannoli-making classes from local grandmothers and restaurant owners.
In 2021, Cowman spent three months along the historic Silk Road trading route, traveling from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to Istanbul, tracing the evolution of street food like dumplings and kebabs from near the border of China through Eastern Europe and the Middle East. “That all played back into Italian food,” she said. “So much of it came up from the Arab world or east through Venice.”
Sicilian food “really felt like the crossroads of all of that,” she said. Her travels, whether to Georgia or Uzbekistan, all informed the cuisine she and Ilardo sell at Doppio.
She geeks out on the intricacies of laminated pastries and how they evolved from Greece to Italy to France to Germany. “Americans are so accustomed to French pastry, and Italian pastry is no joke,” she said. As Doppio expands to its new space in Remington, “I’m really excited to bring Italian pastries to the table,” she added.
Their offerings, which include bags of fresh flour, are also influenced by time spent as a couple in central Oregon, where Ilardo worked on a farm and they developed a passion for baking with grains they milled themselves. “It was something that we both appreciated the challenge of,” Ilardo said. It reflects their approach to Old-World Sicilian pastries. “Sicily was the breadbasket of the Roman empire for awhile,” he said. “I think it’s also delicious.”
Doppio Pasticceria, which translates into “Double Pastry Shop,” is a reference to both the couple running it as well as what Cowman calls “the duality of Sicilian food.” “They have been conquered by everybody. … Everybody has left their mark. And it’s in the cuisine so clearly.”
Though they run the kitchen together, when it comes to running the business, Cowman has designed the systems they need to scale up their business. “I’m pure back-of-house,” Cowman said. Ilardo is more of the public face, interacting with customers. “He brings a lot of warmth,” Cowman said. “I’m flying through orders.”
At R. House, where they opened this week, Doppio has launched a coffee program and is serving pastries in the former Ground & Griddled space. Breakfast sandwiches are soon to come, and Ilardo hopes to eventually stay open through happy hour and serve arancini (deep-fried rice balls).
But don’t fret: With the help of some new additional staff, you will still be able to find Doppio treats at area farmer’s markets, including Waverly’s 32nd Street Market on Saturdays, the Sunday market beneath the JFX and the Kenilworth Mall Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays.