For some, Southland is paczki paradise
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com March 4, 2014 11:14AM
Customers pack the Naples Bakery to pick up paczki pastries for Paczki Day at Naples Bakery, Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 in Evergreen Park | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 6, 2014 6:25AM
Stepping out of her car at 6:20 a.m. Tuesday in the parking lot of Naples Bakery in Evergreen Park, Shelley Sims slipped.
It wasn’t on a patch of ice. It was on the pronunciation of the word “paczki,” the name for those delightful Polish pastries with a wide range of flavors that folks in the Southland love to devour on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. Many of those who observe Lent do so by not eating sweets, so this is their last chance for goodies until Easter.
“I’m here for the doughnuts, the ‘patch-key,’ ” Sims said before catching herself and, with a smile, saying it correctly — “poonch-key” — four straight times.
In a scene likely repeated at bakeries throughout the Southland, she then joined the line outside Naples, 3705 W. 95th St., which opened at 6:30 a.m.
“I love everything about them. We’re all going on a diet after this. That’s our plan at work,” said Sims, who works nearby at Evergreen Park School District 124.
In line, she met nine other early birds ready to swoop in and gather the calorific taste treats that were selling for $1.40 to $1.70 each.
But, come on, who buys one paczki? That’s like eating one potato chip. And so many in line clutched a list of orders from friends, family and co-workers. Some planned ahead and called their orders in on Monday.
Marilyn Hansen, of Evergreen Park, thought the bakery opened at 6 a.m. and was there waiting. She seemed to think it was going to be worth it.
“You go to bite into it, these are so full. I ordered apricot, fresh strawberry and blueberry. I preordered, so when I come in, I’m not taking up time,” she said.
First in line were Margie Gravevich and her 18-year-old son Ben, who planned to bring a few paczki with him to Evergreen Park High School “for his favorite teachers,” Margie said.
“I think he dragged me here,” said Margie, who planned to bring some on the train to her job in downtown Chicago.
Ben smiled when asked if he was guilty as charged for dragging his mother out early.
“They’re too good, too good. I’ve liked paczki for 10 years,” Ben said.
Once the doors opened, people began filing inside, grabbing a number near the door or heading to the separate line for those who preordered.
Roberta Huels, of Merrionette Park, said: “I get them every year because they’re better here than anywhere else. It’s a chance to pig out before Ash Wednesday. We cut them into fourths and try all the flavors.”
Like many, Linda Nelson, of Palos Heights, was on a special mission. She had to buy one dozen and rush home to her hungry husband, their daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.
“They’re all sitting at home, waiting for me. It’s a big thing,” she said. “The paczki here are beautiful to look at it. They’re gorgeous. And they taste good, too.”
Nick Janich, a DePaul University student and the son of Bill Janich, of Chicago’s Beverly community, was expected to get a special delivery Tuesday. Bill stood in line, glancing at orders scrawled on the back of a white envelope.
“Those go to DePaul, and these are coming home. I have two children at Marist and one at St. Barnabas. I’m trying to get these now so they’ll have some sugar and lard for their breakfast,” Bill said with a laugh.
He’s been filling orders at Naples on Fat Tuesday for the past 20 years.
“They’re good here, fluffy,” he said.
Blue Island resident Laura Spalla bought two dozen for her office in Bensenville. Her favorite flavor is cannoli fillinbg. One of those is saved for her 99-year-old aunt, Mary Stoklas, of Oak Lawn, who she said “doesn’t get out much any more.”
By 6:30 a.m., all the bakers had gone home exhausted. They began baking at 9 p.m. Monday, making thousands of the filled pastries that are covered with powdered sugar or frosting, depending on the variety, employee Brianne Garner said.
In the back room, Garner was busy filling cardboard boxes with orders.
Thankfully, each order had a preprinted sheet of flavors, with a number needed written by each flavor, making her job easier.
One table was filled with platters covered with paczki. Another table was home to orders already in white cardboard boxes, with names and pickup times carefully written on the side. Some orders had multiple boxes held together with thick white string.
One of the biggest orders of the morning was by Carmen Tedeschi, of Evergreen Park, who paid $76 for the 45 she brought to Marya Yates School in Matteson, where she teaches fifth-graders.
“This is fun for me,” she said. “I’m sticking to mostly strawberry with cream cheese. I’m retiring this year, so this will be my last gift to the staff.”
Or maybe not.
Standing in front of Tedeschi was Rosemary Kasimir, who was buying for former co-workers at Cossitt Avenue School in La Grange.
I left there four years ago and I still bring them paczki every year and go visit,” said the Oak Lawn resident, who was then bringing some to her job at a doctor’s office in Orland Park.
Asked if she worked for a heart surgeon, she laughed and said, “If my heart doctor knew what I was doing ...”
The power of the paczki apparently has no limits. Using a cane, Alice Krusinski, 90, gingerly negotiated her way across the parking lot from her blue Hyundai to the bakery.
“I live in Crestwood. I come here because I used to live in Evergreen Park. I’m dedicated. I’m buying 15 for a Bible school I go to, and one for everyone in my apartment building. There are 12 apartments,” she said.