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A rush for sugar on paczki day

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    Sue Hannah, manager at Ritos Italian Bakery, boxes up some paczki on Monday. Ritos sells hundreds of these leading up to Fat Tuesday.

    ALYSSA ALFANO / GAZETTE

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    Amber Kosek, employee at Nibble in Medina, shows off a plate of fresh pineapple paczki. This is Nibbles first year selling paczki.

    ALYSSA ALFANO / GAZETTE

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    Another popular Mardi Gras treat is the Mardi Gras king cake, which is a round cake, which is said to originate in France. Often, a bean, pea or coin is baked into the cake and the person who finds the hidden object is said to have good luck in the following year.

    ALYSSA ALFANO / GAZETTE

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    As Sue Hannah packages paczki, she shared that Irish soda bread is another common treat sold this time of year and it is usually served with corned beef.

    ALYSSA ALFANO / GAZETTE

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    After baking, Ritos Italian Bakery and Deli stores its paczki on large racks that can hold 20 trays of about 28 paczki. Customers can order these jelly- and custard-filled pastries by the dozen and half dozen, as well as by the individual pastry.

    ALYSSA ALFANO / GAZETTE

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Sugar. That’s the smell that will hit you when you walk through the door today at Rito’s Italian Bakery and Deli.

More precisely, it will be the sweet smell of paczki, the Polish treat synonymous with Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras. And, today as people enjoy decadence the day before Lent begins, it will be the paczki that takes center stage and Rito’s is ready to wow with its many variations of the pastry.

“It’s been going on forever, Fat Tuesday. You eat your favorite doughnut and then you start Lent,” Rito’s manager Sue Hannah said Monday. “So, people have their last fix of doughnuts if they give that up for Lent.”

Rito’s, located at 1930 Pearl Road in Brunswick, has been selling the Polish pastries for many years and they continue to be a big hit for the bakery known for its giant cannoli — an extra-large handmade cannoli shell dipped in chocolate and stuffed with 36 small cannoli — and decadent cakes.

“Very busy,” Hannah said. “This week has been really crazy. We’ve been selling paczki every day.”

Paczki were traditionally made the day before Lent to use up what was left of the butter, sugar and other sweets that were usually frowned upon during Lent. But at Rito’s paczki season offers an opportunity to be creative.

According to Hannah, the marshmallow and custard-filled paczki are two of the most popular flavors; however her favorite is the chocolate mousse.

“We have racks and racks and racks,” said Hannah in regards to how many paczki are made leading up to Fat Tuesday. Each rack held about 20 trays with nearly 28 paczki per tray.

“They’re just delicious,” said Elaine McCarroll of Medina, who stopped into the bakery Monday to buy a few. “They just taste really good.”

Nibble, a specialty food and gift store located at 229 S. Court St. in Medina, is selling paczkis for the first time this year along with its inventory of baked goods, unique snacks and canned and jarred delicacies.

They have only been in the area for a year and a half after moving to the larger space and see Fat Tuesday as a perfect opportunity to sell the popular treat.

“I’m Polish, so it’s a good fit,” said owner Melissa Ziogas. “All our bakery (items) comes from Rito’s up in Brunswick.”

“It’s a fried dough so it’s a messy thing. But, it’s the eating. It’s all about the eating,” Ziogas said.

Contact reporter Alyssa Alfano at aalfano@medina-gazette.com.
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