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Up-and-coming chef Francesca Barsellotti

Francesca Barsellotti

Francesca Barsellotti

Francesca Barsellotti lost her mother in 1999. From that point on, she was determined to follow a path that would not only help her with the healing process, but also make her mother proud.

In 2000, Barsellotti was accepted into the prestigious culinary arts program at Le Cordon Bleu. Since graduating, she has hit the ground running as the pastry and executive chef behind Amoremia Cucina Italiana in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood and the pastry chef at the Puerto Rican-inspired Coco Restaurant in Chicago’s Humboldt Park.

“At first, I went to school to study math and accounting, but when my Mom passed away, it was tough for me,” she explains. “I wanted to get into something that I knew she would be proud of me for. She was always hospitable when entertaining.”

Despite the dramatic shift in direction, Barsellotti hasn’t put her actuarial skills in mothballs. “I really proved to Jose (the owner of both restaurants) that not only do I know how to work in the kitchen, but I have computer and business skills,” says Barsellotti. “I set up all the online accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter, and I also took care of the marketing aspects when it came to Metromix, Yelp and TimeOut Chicago.”

Amoremia’s menu features a mix of authentic Italian entrees and small-plate offerings, while Coco serves up a combination of time-honored Puerto Rican fare like asopaso (Puerto Rican stew) and nouvelle dishes like mahi mahi filet in a lobster bisque. Although Coco is closer to her boss’ ethnic wheelhouse, Barsellotti assures that he put an enormous amount of effort into Amoremia before its grand opening in January of this year. “For a year, Jose researched Italian cooking and restaurants” she explains.

When Barsellotti isn’t busy in the kitchen or at the computer, she is cooking up special events like “The Tasting of Amoremia,” a sampler of sumptuous small-plate fare and scrumptious pastries that was a huge success. A children’s day has been schedule at Amoremia for August 6 and another tasting will take place on August 13.

Although Barsellotti loves creating and preparing gourmet entrees, her true passion is pastry making. On the days that Amoremia is closed (Sunday and Monday), Barsellotti works on all the dessert items for both restaurants. A customer favorite is her signature cheesecake — “I have perfected it so many times. It’s light, fluffy and creamy.” — and her homemade coconut ice cream also earns rave reviews. “I make sure both of the restaurants are stocked with delicious dessert items for our customers to enjoy,” she says.

Barsellotti’s pastry creations have been such a hit that, with Jose’s help, they have spawned a wholesale pastry business that Barsellotti calls Frannie Cakes, which has been her own pastry business project since 2005. “I mainly get a lot of cheesecake orders. But, I have ventured into cupcakes,” she explains. “Whatever people request, I can do.” Items on the Frannie Cakes menu include cheesecake with fruit topping, specialty cheesecakes (turtle, red velvet, Snickers, Twix, Reese’s, pumpkin, sweet potato, Oreo, rainbow); chocolate and red velvet cakes; gourmet cupcakes (red velvet, Nutella, peanut butter and jelly, carrot cake, turtle, lemon, raspberry, pink lemonade and marble); fruit tarts; and pies (pumpkin, sweet potato, apple, cherry and various cream fillings).

Her busy schedule leaves Barsellotti with little down time. But she does make time to dream of some day owning her own bakery. “As a chef, you have to be ready for anything that comes your way,” says Barsellotti.

For now, she is living her dream of creating gourmet cuisine and pastries while honing her business skills, making her a true triple threat on the Chicago restaurant scene. And although her mother is no longer with her, rest assured that she would be very, very proud.

For more on Amoremia, visit www.amoremiachicago.com.

For more on Coco Restaurant, visit www.cocochicago.com.

To place a wholesale pastry order with Frannie Cakes, contact 773-896-3492 or amoremiapastrycheffran@gmail.com.

About Alanna Chiefari

Alanna Chiefari is a 2007 graduate of Saint Mary's college-Notre Dame. She has been writing for Fra Noi since the winter of 2011 and is absolutely thrilled to feature young Italian-American adults who are off to a great start. Alanna has been working as a client associate on a wealth management team for Merrill Lynch since May of 2007. In her spare time, she loves exploring Italian culture by reading books, trying new restaurants and meeting Italian Americans who are benefiting the community. Follow her on Twitter at @LannaDionne.