A man on a decadent mission: Chef Enzo’s patisserie to test Santa Cruzans’ appetite for high-end desserts

Crescenzo Pelliccio's treats await.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Enzo Pelliccio’s Emozioni Artisinal Patisserie looks to import the finest standards of French and Italian deserts to Live Oak. “It kinda scares me,” he says of opening amid the pandemic. “But at the same time it gives me strength and the power to do this. I need to do it.”

Why start a business in the middle of a pandemic winter when it seems like the rest of the commercial world is deep in hibernation?

In the specific case of high-end desserts, especially if it involves fine chocolate, the answer is right there on the calendar. Pandemic or not, Valentine’s Day will not be denied.

And Crescenzo Pelliccia — Chef Enzo, as Pelliccia is known in his pastry kitchen — plans to be ready for it.

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Pelliccia, 29, is the proprietor of a new Santa Cruz-based patisserie called Emozioni — from the Italian for “emotions.” And the emotions Pelliccia is looking to invoke are awe, delight and, for the sweet tooth, rampaging desire.

Emozioni opens this week inside the Italian restaurant Lago di Como, right across the street from East Cliff Village in Live Oak. And Pelliccia is looking to impress.

The patisserie will offer a variety of almost-too-beautiful-to-eat treats, from tarts, pastries, pies, and other goodies from baklava to tiramisu. When it comes to decadence, Pelliccia is not into compromises.

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He says his creations reach for the highest standards of the pastisseries of France and Italy. He even likes to call his work “sugart.”

“Everywhere I go in my line of work,” he said, “people who know what I do, say, ‘Oh, that’s too much for Santa Cruz. You don’t need to do that. Just keep it simple.’ But, why do I have to keep it simple? Let’s give the people of Santa Cruz the freedom to decide if something’s too fancy. Now, it’s a bet. I might fail miserably. I might succeed. But I want to try.”

Pelliccia is a native of the southern Italy city of Naples, or “Napoli” as he calls it. He moved to California seven years ago, living and working in Santa Cruz until he landed the job as the executive pastry chef at Dio Deka, a Greek/Hellinic restaurant in Los Gatos. Emozioni represents a long-held dream, to translate the fine art of Italian desserts to a community hungry for it.

Yum
A sampling of the high-end pastries for sale at Emozioni Patisserie.
(Courtesy Emozioni Patisserie)

“California is beautiful,” he said, “California is everything, the sun is amazing, just like Italy. That’s why I want to do an Italian concept here, make it global.”

Pelliccia said he was motivated by a mentor in the fine art of chocolate who told him to always be applying his unique vision to his pastry-making. “He told me, ‘For you, if one plus one equals two, you can’t work for me. If, for you, one plus one equals three, then OK, we can talk.’”

Emozioni will be open daily from 7 a.m. to mid-afternoon before Lago di Como opens for dinner. Pelliccia said he’ll offer mocha and capuccino to go along with his desserts. There will be a few dry goods available, like cookies and bonbons.

And, sometime after Valentine’s Day, he hopes to create a kind of savory croissant or puff pastry, perhaps ham and cheese, to offer at breakfast. He’s shooting to get up to 20-25 items on his menu.

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Until then, though, it’s all about the desserts. There will be some vegan and dairy-free options, but mostly he’ll be offering the kind of glazed, visually exquisite, expertly designed and presented desserts that would be home in glossy magazine spreads.

One of Pelliccia’s signature creations is the emozione al cioccolato, a dark chocolate cake with milk-chocolate whipped ganache, vanilla mousse, 70-percent dark chocolate fudge, and candied cocoa nibs. He also specializes in the French style known as viennoiserie and choux pastries with hazelnut, coffee, and dark chocolate.

For Valentine’s Day, he’s working on a special treat of white chocolate, red berries, and rosewater. He said he’ll lean heavily on locally sourced ingredients and design desserts to conform with the seasons, particularly when it comes to his fruits and garnishes.

Some of Chef Enzo's treats that he plans to sell in Live Oak.
(Courtesy Emozioni Patisserie)

“And you can’t forget about the tiramasu, of course. But a lot of my desserts will change shape and size and decorations.”

As it opens, the patisserie will be run by Pelliccia and his wife, Shalia Monee, for pick-up and delivery (subject to geographical radius and minimum order).

“I make art with my desserts,” said Pelliccia, “Doing desserts is the best way to express myself.”

Of the uncertain times and the equally uncertain market, Pelliccia said, “We don’t know where we are going to be (by the end of the year). It kinda scares me. But at the same time it gives me strength and the power to do this. I need to do it.”

Chez Enzo and Emozioni Artisinal is ready to find out if Santa Cruz a high-end desert place, even amid the pandemic.
Chez Enzo and Emozioni Artisinal is ready to find out if Santa Cruz a high-end desert place, even amid the pandemic.