Pastry chef turns online business into bakery
By Josette Keelor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- Dan Lantonio might be new to Berryville, but he's been in business a long time.
A pastry chef, he's been baking cookies for 15 years, he said. He's worked in New York City, doing corporate catering on Wall Street, and he was chef at The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn.
Originally from Brooklyn, he moved to Sterling to Cherry Hill, N.J., to Pennsylvania and back to Sterling.
But he knows cookies, and he's counting on the public's love of cookies to make his business grow.
"Everyone loves cookies," he said.
His store, "The Cookie Guy," opened its figurative doors about two years ago, Lantonio said, but it was only a mail order business then.
A month ago, he set down roots at 23 Crow St. in Berryville.
"I've been doing cookies since I can remember," Lantonio said. "I mean, the first cookies were terrible."
But they got better, and after studying at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, Lantonio was able to infuse his passion with the needed expertise.
"Everything in the store is made from scratch," he said.
There are no frozen mixes in his inventory, no substitutions on ingredients.
"The peanut butter's peanuts and salt, that's it," he said.
He uses 100 percent European butter -- Plugra, which has a higher fat content but is a better quality, he said.
"I buy that by the 36-pound case," he said. It's $15-20 more per case than other butter would be, but it's worth the cost.
"I use three different types of flour for cookies. If I run out, I'm not using something different for that cookie," he said. If he runs out of an ingredient, he waits until he has what he needs before making that type of cookie.
Making the cookies from scratch means he can make them fresh daily, "and it's great for someone who has allergies." He can tell his customers exactly what's in a product and can keep the different cookies separated from each other while making them.
"I have five daily and I try to change up two or three of them," he said. Popular items are chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, coconut macadamia, white chocolate cranberry, sugar and cinnamon/ginger. He also has two types of brownies -- rich chocolate, with and without walnuts.
If he isn't featuring a certain kind one day, he can tell customers which day they can expect their favorite.
The best-seller so far has been the cinnamon/ginger, he said, which originally was supposed to be a holiday special.
"That probably sells more than any other cookie for some reason," he said. "That and the rich chocolate brownies are probably my top ones."
Contrary to what his nickname suggests, Lantonio sells more than just cookies.
Marshmallows, peanut brittle and cheesecake lollipops decorate the counter alongside packages of chocolate candy. A nearby shelf offers chocolate-covered cherries in boxes and other gift items.
Complementing the bakery items is the locally roasted coffee from Cabin Creek Roasters in Edinburg.
Lantonio also makes birthday cakes, wedding cakes and specialty cakes.
"The wedding cakes I specialize in [are] gum paste flour cakes," he said, something he had to go to school to learn to do.
The cakes with fondant have been a hit even though he admits people usually don't like fondant.
"The one I use is a little more expensive," he said. "Like, usually people hate fondant." Not this one though.
Fondant from cake supply stores gets hard, cracks and doesn't taste great, he said, but the kind he uses has a consistency more like marshmallow.
"The fondant's the only thing I don't make from scratch," he said. "It's 100 percent better, it tastes better, and you know it's going to taste the same every time. This I drive to Maryland for."
Business so far has been good, he said, better as word gets around.
"I'm having probably 20 people a day," he said. "A lot of repeat business. [People] bring their grandkids in, bring their friends in. It's nice."
He hopes that by using good ingredients, he'll draw in people looking for a unique cookie experience.
"It's like making the perfect rice, only some people can do it," Lantonio said. "And perfecting a cookie makes everyone happy."
The Cookie Guy, located at 23 Crow St. in Berryville, is open Tuesday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesday-Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, call 571-230-6418 or visit http://shop.thecookieguy.com.