Family members have been calling my sister and me “testa dura” (Calabrese slang for “hard-headed”) since we were stubborn little girls, but sometimes that tenacity comes in handy—especially when there’s an incredible secret bakery around the corner. Back today is Tessa Barber with a report on a Pittsburgh bakery too good to pass up.
When my sister came to visit in July, I knew exactly where we had to go.
“When are you leaving?” I asked. “We have to go to the Saturday bakery.”
“I have to leave on Saturday,” she replied. “How early is it open?”
“It opens at 10, but we should get there at 9:30 to be in line.”
“I’d like to be on the road pretty early…”
I would have none of this practical waffling from the normally culinarily adventurous Ms. Barber.
“You don’t understand! You have to go! This place will make you plotz!”
And that, apparently, was the magic word. The promise of plotz-ing. Never mind that neither of us knew exactly what plotzing entailed.
As it happens, I work in a library, and I can now reveal that I was spot-on in my choice of words. According to Gene Bluestein in his book Anglish/Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature, “plats” is a verb meaning “to burst”:
“It can be used two ways: as an insult—’pltsn zuhl er’ means ‘may he burst’; or as an exclamation—’ich huhb sheer gePLATST’ means ‘I almost burst from surprise or pleasure.'” (p. 75)
Michael Wex, in his Just Say Nu: Yiddish for Every Occasion (When English Just Won’t Do), makes a further connection between platsing and kvelling: the latter is when you’re really filled with pleasure but can’t show it, so you have to tell people that you’re kvelling. If you get too much pleasure or shock, or even frustration, you’ll plats. (p. 252)
Now, I’d like you to imagine yourself on a charming little Pittsburgh street that constitutes the entire business district of the Highland Park neighborhood. Sure, East Liberty is full of traffic just down the road, but right now you’re surrounded by the suburban sounds of dogs’ feet tapping on cement, stroller wheels, and the thump of joggers.
It’s 9:30 and you’re standing on a wooden ramp in front of a small off-white stucco building. The door is open, but a wobbly diner stool blocks the entrance while the smells of bread and sugar weave their way down the line that’s quickly forming. You’ve gone around the corner to Tazza D’Oro to get some coffee, and, while it has staved off your headache, it has also awoken your stomach. You’re hungry.
And then you start thinking of everything that may be available behind that door in 30 minutes. Two or three bite-sized marinated ham and swiss sandwiches, slightly sticky all over from the ham’s marinade. Fluffy, yeasty foccacia with a nest of olives on top. Key lime pie. Key lime cake. Fresh pumpkin roll just the right side of moist and just the right thickness of cream cheese filling. Mousse filled cupcakes in five or six different flavors. And I could go on.
Are you platsing from frustration yet that you aren’t in there, gleefully going over the $10 minimum on your debit card? (I am.) Not to mention the torturous food-ordering decisions you’ll have to make and the extreme pleasure of sitting down with your pile of white paper boxes on a blanket in Highland Park and eating much more than you told yourself you would.
Food Glorious Food is the real name of the Saturday bakery, and I can’t believe that, as a Pittsburgher going on five years, I only went there for the first time this summer. For the past ten years, the bakery has (as the nickname suggests) only opened on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until they sold out. However, this past month, chefs Brad and Tom finally caved to the demand and expanded bakery hours to Thursdays and Fridays.
Should you need your fix of Food Glorious Food any other day of the week, you can place an advance order, come to a cooking demo at Whole Foods, get your party catered or cake made by them, or sign up for one of their Italian cooking classes.
I’ll probably just continue to go there on Saturdays and eat till I burst.
Food Glorious Food, 5906 Bryant Street, Pittsburgh, PA.412-363-5330. Bakery open Thursday-Saturday, 10:00 am-6:00 pm.