Pastry queen Yasmin Lozada-Hissom has plans to make Spuntino even sweeter

Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, the pastry chef of Duo and Olivea, where her husband, John Broening, is also the executive chef, was a regular at Spuntino, an Italian cafe in Highland, owned, in part, by Simone Parisi, who also runs a namesake pizzeria and deli, as well as its downstairs restaurant, Firenze a Tavola. And several months ago, when Parisi made the decision to give up his ownership in Spuntino, leaving the cafe to his business partner, Dorina Miller, Lozada-Hissom and Miller began to toy with the idea of forming their own partnership.

"John and I were going to Spuntino quite a bit and thought it was lovely, and when Simone left to devote more time to Parisi and Firenze a Tavola, Dorina and I started talking about the possibility of my coming on as a partner," says Lozada-Hissom, who, in case you missed it, is a 2012 James Beard semi-finalist in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category.

She took some time to think about it, heading off to Venezuela to visit family, and when she returned, in December, she'd made her decision. "I had a lot of time to reflect while I was there," she says, "and I decided that it was the right decision -- that I wanted to be a part of something special in a great neighborhood."

But the original concept, she admits, was confusing. "I think a lot of people in the neighborhood just thought it was the Red Trolley -- the ice cream place that used to be there -- with a different name, and so, at the very least, we needed to clarify that it was much more than that," Lozada-Hissom says. And then, she adds, "It evolved into a much bigger, more ambitious project."

"We thought about keeping the concept more or less the same, but clarifying it so that people knew it wasn't just about popsicles and gelato," she explains, "but as we began to talk, we realized that we wanted to do more than that, so we started thinking about what other things we could offer the neighborhood, which is full of great restaurants and people who love food."

So while Lozada-Hissom and Miller will continue to trumpet the treats that made Spuntino popular with the 'hood, the plan is to bolster the menu with the help of Broening and a top-notch sous chef, as well as showcase as many Colorado products as possible. "John will be collaborating on the menu, cooking occasionally and supervising the kitchen staff, and along with salads, Italian sandwiches and housemade pastries, we're going to feature locally-roasted coffee from Boxcar in Boulder, wines from Infinite Monkey Theorem and as many locally-sourced ingredients as we can, including vegetables and greens from Granata Farms," Lozada-Hissom tells me. And, she notes, "We'll do our own sorbets an continue to extend and evolve the line of popsicles, because they're amazing."

In addition, the cafe will feature "small bites" -- charcuterie; artisan cheese; and bruschetta topped with white anchovies, shrimp and avocado, or homemade ricotta and fresh fava beans -- as well as her legendary desserts. "I'll continue to do all the desserts and pastries at Duo and Olivea -- that's not going to change. The desserts I'm doing here -- things like tarts and an orange olive oil cake with fennel -- will be unique to Spuntino, and they're very simple and rustic," she explains.

"I'd really like for Spuntino to be the kind of place where the neighborhood can come in and have a good little dessert, a great glass or wine or cup of coffee and some lovely small bites -- all in the same place," Lozada-Hissom says.

You can be one of the first to partake when Spuntino reopens on March 20.

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