When a handsome Italian walks into your office bearing armfuls of freshly baked treats, there’s a good reason to be excited. So, when John J strolled into the Plano Profile offices carrying a giant bag of Italian baked goods I cornered him, did a quick interview and hoarded all the cookies and biscotti in my desk drawer. And then I ate them. All.
The first and only thing you really need to know about John is that he’s a baker, a gloriously talented baker who lives right here in Plano where he bakes and ships his Italian cookies all across the U.S. His company name is Femia Foods. It doesn’t really matter that he’s not technically Italian (he’s from Utica, New York) because both his parents and all his grandparents are 100 percent Italian and they taught he everything he knows about the art of traditional Italian baking.
“I lived in my maternal grandparents apartment building—they lived downstairs, and we lived upstairs—in Utica until I was seven and during that time, it was my grandparents who influenced me regarding food, family, and culture,” says John. “I would help grow and harvest our garden in the backyard with my grandfather, Joseph Femia. I would also help him make wine in the cellar by turning the press to crush the grapes. My grandfather owned a few restaurants in Utica and was an avid cook, always making home made sausage, pizzas, and other delicious Italian food. My grandmother, Rose Femia, taught me a love of baking. As far back as I can remember, I would sit at the kitchen table and watch her mix ingredients, knead dough, and braid her beautiful Easter bread. Growing up with a love of food prompted me to want to become a chef and eventually I earned a Bachelor’s in Culinary Arts from Paul Smith’s College in New York and a Master’s degree in Gastronomy from Boston University.”
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So, back to the cookies. John brought me entire bags of eight different types of cookies. Yes, eight. They were: Classic Anise, a light swirl cookie with white icing and multi-colored sprinkles; Italian Wedding, chocolate clove sphere with white icing; Coconut Rum & Macadamia Biscotti; Cranberry Orange & Pecan Biscotti; Susamielle or “S” Cookies; Ricotta Cookies, small round white with icing and colored sprinkles; Biscotti Regina, sesame seed cookie; and Double Chocolate Espresso Biscotti.
Unfortunately for John I’m no food critic but I am pregnant and that makes me a bonafide cookie monster and what I can tell you is this: John makes good cookies. The Biscotti blew me away. Crisp, yet slightly soft—perfect for dipping in my daily coffee. And the flavor! I don’t know if you’ve noticed but biscotti normally don’t taste like much, but John’s biscotti burst with flavor, most likely because they contain real ingredients, like actual orange, cranberry and pecans.
“I’m known for my various flavors of biscotti, the most popular being Double Chocolate Espresso, Coconut Rum & Macadamia and Lemon Almond,” John says. “Other popular favorites are from family recipes over 100 years old from my great-grandmother: Classic Anise, and Orange Zest Cookies. For Christmas, La Pittanchiusa and Strufoli, small spheres of dough lightly fried and tossed in warm honey and powdered sugar, are the most popular because they are traditional Italian Christmas desserts. For Easter, it’s Pane di Pasqua: Easter Bread, a braided sweet bread.”
Now, for the purpose of research (not because I was feeling generous) I did share a few with my Italian father-in-law to see if they could be considered genuine Italian cookies. While my father-in-law loved the cookies (especially the Biscotti Regina and the Susamielle), he was not able to confirm or deny their true Italian heritage. Turns out my father-in-law is from a completely different region of Italy. I will not be sharing with him again.
So, truly Italian or not—and for the record I’m pretty convinced they are—John’s cookies are delicious. Just don’t call him if you’re looking for Unicorn marshmallow pops or Paw Patrol cupcakes for your kid’s birthday. Call him if you like to eat really good cookies.
Femia Foods (a.k.a John’s cookies)