Not everyone wants a cutesy box of chocolates, especially not every year. This Valentine’s Day, satisfy your sweetheart's cravings with something that he or she won't soon forget. Our guide to sweet treats from diverse restaurants across the city includes items you might not have considered in Februarys past. But remember: No matter how untraditional you are, you still have to get a card.
Entice her, Italian-style at Pasticceria Natalina
Natalina's cannoli come with three different toppings: candied orange peel, pistachios and cherries.
It's difficult not to drool upon walking into this quaint Andersonville Italian pastry shop. Trying to pronounce the names of the goodies is hard enough; choosing one can be near-impossible. So we've selected the best one for you: the Cannoli Siciliani. Proprietors Natalina and Nicolas Zarzour are dedicated to making every pastry by hand, and this pastry is no exception. With traditional sheep's milk (overnighted from Sicily) wrapped inside a tube of pastry dough and candied with citrus that's made in-house, this sweet treat offers enjoyment in many ways – just like your mate.
Induce raw pleasure at Karyn's Raw
Holistic guru Karyn Calabrese knows how to marry flavor and health, especially when it comes to dessert. At the Fresh Corner Cafe, located adjacent to her Living Foods Restaurant, you can get your hands on the tastiest, most alive (read: not cooked or baked) desserts you ever thought possible. Our personal favorite? The carob pudding, made from rich carob, cashews, avocados and honey. It's as thick as chocolate mousse minus the fat from dairy. Then there's the carob pecan pie, a rich blend of fresh pecans and carob whipped into a thick square. We could go on and on, but better that you check out this raw, organic, vegan option. Your Valentine's waistline will thank you, too.
Bleeding Heart's "My Bloody Valentine" cake is great for the passionate, if not too serious, couple.
Have a punk-rock holiday at Bleeding Heart Bakery
Go organic this Valentine's Day at Valentin and Michelle Garcia's delectable bakery. Since they've got "heart" in their store's title, you'd better believe that they're pulling out all the stops. Share a chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, or custom-made "tattoo cake" modeled after Sailor Jerry's old-school tattoos, or go the more traditional route with a dozen chocolate truffles. You can also rock out with "My Bloody Valentine," a cherry-filled chocolate cake, or just keep it simple with tattoo heart cookies.
Get him raving about rugelach at Kaufman's Bagel and Delicatessen
This Valentine's Day, say "I love you" in Yiddish with these rolled-up kosher cookies, available at Skokie's favorite Jewish deli and bakery. Although these sweets are available all year long, a combo of different flavors, coupled with a selection of Kaufman’s sugar cookies, makes a perfect mix-and-match gift for your Valentine. Choose from rugelach filled with raspberries, apricots, chocolate chips, raisins, or nuts, or go for healthy with a sugar-free nut rugelach.
Layer your love at Middle East Bakery and Grocery
Looking for a way to express the multiple levels of love you have for your partner? Nothing's better than baklava, the traditional Middle Eastern pastry made of layers of phyllo dough. Your partner will go nuts working through each piece of syrupy, chewy, nutty goodness. Pair this delightful snack with a wrapped-up surprise or with an array of other sweets, like dried date cookies.
Go all-natural at Letizia's Natural Bakery
Wicker Park's favorite all-natural bakery steals your heart with heart-shaped shortbread cookies. Actually, they could be termed heartbreakers, since raspberry and vanilla butter cream literally flow out of the middle of these goodies. If you're looking for an extra boost, try the espresso shortbread version of this tasty treat. You'll satisfy your Valentine's sugar and caffeine addictions in just a few sweet bites.
Show that size doesn't matter with Swirlz Cupcakes
Good things do come in small packages; the dark and white chocolate raspberry truffle cupcakes at Swirlz are proof of that. The moist chocolate or rich vanilla cakes come bursting with fruity filling, topped with melted chocolate and decorated with a double raspberry butter cream swirl. Craving that personal touch? Come to the store on Valentine's Day and the Swirlz pastry chef will create a custom message for your special cupcake. There's a gluten-free option, too.
Satisfy canine cravings at 4 Legs Pet Store
Share the puppy love this Valentine's Day by treating your pooch to a special treat. Choose from round carob and yogurt treats speckled with bright red sprinkles and topped off with little red hearts. Or reward pooch with a doughmutt, a doggie-style doughnut made of pink yogurt and covered in carob and sprinkles. You can rest assured that your dog won't ingest any chocolate; all of 4 Legs's treats come from certified doggie spots Polkadog Bakery and Buttercup Patisserie.