When Dina Cimarusti’s long-awaited bakery, Sugar Moon (3612 W. Wrightwood Ave.), soft opened in September, the line stretched out the door and down the block. The wait was clearly worth it, as people have been coming in droves to try Cimarusti’s take on elevated homestyle pastries ever since.
The small storefront houses big, bold flavors, with items like rolls stuffed with mortadella and spinach pesto, galettes filled with mushrooms and chimichurri, and brioche buns stuffed with red pesto, feta and za’atar. The Chicago Tribune’s Nick Kindelsperger recently hailed Sugar Moon’s tahini chocolate chip cookie as one of the best in the city, and guests can also treat themselves to a variety of gluten-free and vegan sweet treats.
Named for the time of year when sap from sugar maple trees begins to run, Sugar Moon Bakery is a testament to Cimarusti’s lifelong love affair with baking. Like so many of us, Cimarusti discovered the magic of cooking in her grandmothers’ kitchens, and by age 14, she had already entered the food industry. Known for her elaborate buttercream cakes, Cimarusti spent most of her years in the industry in specialty cake shops but also worked at wholesale bakeries and cafes.
Saying she eventually left the food industry due to toxic working environments, Cimarusti spent the past few years working as a special effects makeup artist on television shows filmed in Chicago. “This was an easy transition for me,” said Cimarusti, “because of the sculpting and airbrushing skills acquired from cake decorating. But being in the film industry made me realize how much I missed being in the kitchen.”
But it was important for her to reenter the kitchen on her own terms. “I decided it was finally time to start looking into opening my own spot, but it took years to find the right one. I had my eye on this strip on Wrightwood for years,” said Cimarusti. “I always thought it would be the perfect spot for a little neighborhood bakery. I walked by every week for years hoping to see a ‘For Rent’ sign pop up. When one finally did, I didn’t hesitate.”
When building the concept for Sugar Moon, Cimarusti knew she wanted to draw on the joy of eating simple, beautiful pastries like the ones often found in small town bakeries and local diners: an iced cake sitting under a glass dome that looks homemade or an ooey, gooey cinnamon roll dripping with icing. “I think everyone expected me to open a specialty cake shop since I’m known for my outrageous sculpted cakes. But I really just wanted to bake things that I would make at home for friends and family – a variety of comfort food [items], with some Italian influences,” she said.
It didn’t take long for Sugar Moon to become a favorite neighborhood bakery, and Cimarusti, who is a longtime Logan Square resident with her fiancé, Michael Nitschky, said she’s excited to get to know her neighbors. Guests can look forward to a constant rotation of new, seasonal goodies, as well as a few staples, like the bakery’s namesake Sugar Moon pie (a smoked, salted maple custard nestled in a flaky crust). There’s also Cimarusti’s personal favorite, the tiramisu cloud cookie (a light vanilla cookie filled with espresso mascarpone cream and dusted with cocoa powder).
Sugar Moon Bakery is open Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., and Sundays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. For more details, visit Sugar Moon’s Instagram.
Featured photo: Erik Island