Slideshow SLIDESHOW: Behind the Sweets: Toni Marie Cox Creates Vanilla Panna Cotta at Toni Patisserie

[Photographs: Lindsey Becker]

We may have mentioned once or twice how much we enjoy both the savory and sweet offerings at Toni Patisserie. It's hard not to like high-quality food offered up in such a charming space, and it's just so conveniently located half a block away from Millennium Park, too. It's also hard not to like the woman behind the food and cafe, who is just as pleasant herself.

Though she grew up with a grandma who loved baking birthday cakes for her grandchildren every year, Toni wasn't immediately interested in baking and pastries. While getting a degree in fine arts, she actually worked in the front of the house at various restaurants. It wasn't until she met her husband, a serious kitchen hobbyist, that she made the shift to the back of the house. Once there, her dedication to pastry intensified and she was eventually asked to open The Disneyland Hotel in Paris. Though she primarily made American desserts at the hotel, she explored the authentic Parisian pastries around her and moved back to the states after three years to open her own patisserie in Hinsdale. After building her business there for 17 years, she opened another shop in Chicago just over a year ago.

Along with gorgeous and impeccably made French pastries, sandwiches on fresh, crackly baguettes, and classic composed salads, Toni also offers a creamy and tart cherry panna cotta. She graciously took time away from wedding cake designing and decorating—even now, as the owner of two busy cafe/bakeries, she continues to make this a priority—to show me how she puts a French twist on the classic Italian dessert. Click through the slideshow to find out why she declared this the perfect dinner party dessert.

Toni Patisserie and Café

65 E. Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602 (map)

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