Living near the Oakmont Bakery comes with certain responsibilities.
Most of the time it requires you remain something of a courier, ready and willing to ferry the signature pastries from this suburban Pittsburgh institution to friends, family and acquaintances far and wide.
“A friend of mine who used to live here and who moved to Florida wants me to take her the sugar cookies every time I go,” Sophia Facaros of Oakmont said matter of factly.
Sometimes it’s a form of currency.
“When I called up to Monterey Bay Fish Grotto [the restaurant in Mount Washington], the guy said, ‘Yeah, I’ll give you a table if you bring me an Elvis Presley cupcake,” Facaros added. The cupcake, a mix of banana mousse, peanut-butter frosting and white chocolate ganache, is a nod to the King’s favorite fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. (Elvis mysteriously suffered a fatal heart attack in 1977.)
But as of this morning, Facaros and everyone else in the area will have more elbow room to procure these tokens of affection and forms of payola.
In a ribbon cutting ceremony at 8 a.m., Oakmont Bakery’s new location at Third Street and Hulton Road — One Sweet Way — officially opened. It is sprawling and modern. It bustles like a train station. Store manager Billy Oblock expected several thousand customers before the end of the day.
“We watched it grow over the years, not realizing what it became, I guess,” said Facaros, who was among the first customers in line.
She stood in a light rain with Marilyn Steving of Plum who said she asked her grandson to delay scheduling his wedding until she was sure she’d be home for today’s grand opening, which was originally eyed for November of last year before being delayed. Steving didn’t seem to mind.
They were surrounded by a crowd of press and media that rivaled those seen on presidential campaign trails.
When I asked Facaros and Steving and others waiting outside what was good here, every one of them laughed in my face.
“You kidding? I’d eat anything from in there,” Steving said.
Pressed for recommendations, Martin Colamarino of Plum Borough acted as though I’d asked him to pick a favorite child.
“Oh …. Gosh … Their paczkis [pronounced punch-key] are good, the bagels, everything — you can’t go wrong.”
Minutes later, the owners, Marc Serrao and family, said a few words. They thanked everyone for coming, closed with a prayer, cut the ribbon and threw open the doors.
What looks from the outside like a Whole Foods also looks that way from the inside, except all the produce and asparagus water has been replaced by confections and carbohydrates. The display cases gleamed and brimmed with breads and cakes and cookies.
The place is massive at three times the size of the old location. It will be open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Steving, Colamarino and Facaros relished the added room and the diminished need for sharper elbows. They said the parking lot was also larger, though it was already overflowing by 10 a.m.
Inside, I paced the long concourse and made my selections with the help of an agreeable and exceedingly patient staffer. I ordered the Pittsburgh creme paczki — imagine a denser and more mildly sweetened version of a donut with an incredibly sweet and weightless, almost gravity-defying vanilla creme inside. I had a pepperoni roll and immediately wanted another.
I tried the *really extra* mini-Oakmonter, the bakery’s signature mashup of New York style cheesecake, dark chocolate cake, fudge icing and on and on. Then I tried an espresso macaron that tasted like concentrated and dehydrated tiramisu, in a not-at-all unpleasant way, and which floated on my tongue and momentarily gave me the ability to speak Italian. “Sono pieno come un uovo.”
Finally, I tried the guava and cream cheese pastelito, a flaky Cuban pastry that evoked the cream cheese and jelly sandwiches of my youth, if that youth had taken place on a tropical archipelago.
I spread all of the items out before me on a table — the bakery’s new location also has more of these — and got a few looks. “Gluttons gonna glut.”
And then I spilled the leftovers into a bag, waved goodbye to Facaros a few tables away and went back out into the world smelling a little sweeter and better prepared to perform favors here for my loved ones for many years to come.