The owner of Cheviot’s Maribelle Cakery is breaking out of her cake mold to bring French pastries to downtown’s Central Business District. Nine years after buying Maribelle from the original owners, Angela Grillo is branching out with her new venture, Mon Petit Choux, which is set to open in the next couple months on Court Street.
As a child, she and her family took a trip to Paris, where she fell in love with European-style cafés. “Ever since then, I’ve dreamt that’s what I want to do someday,” she says.
Her life path didn’t lead her directly to a career in pastry arts, though. Grillo worked in customer service at Cincinnati Bell for 12 years and loved it, she says, but was ready for a change. She was ready to make her dream of a Parisian café a reality.
She went back to school to earn her pastry education, studying under several master pastry chefs — including renowned cake artists Ron Ben-Israel and Nicholas Lodge — at the International Culinary Center in New York.
“I truly believe if you really want to do (something) well, then you should take from the people that you think are the best in the industry,” she says. “And that’s what I did.”
During her time in culinary school, she learned to decorate next-level cakes, craft elaborate sugar flowers and lean in to her love of confections — skills she would later use to make Maribelle Cakery her own.
Nearly a decade ago, Grillo called Maribelle to order a cake for her daughter’s birthday. There was a message on the machine saying that the current owners were retiring and looking for someone to buy their business. Grillo hung up the phone, looked at her husband and said, “It’s a sign from God. We’re buying Maribelle Cakery.”
She bought the bakery while she was nine months pregnant. People thought she was crazy, she says, remembering the beginning of her journey as a pastry chef.
“You will never have the timing right,” she says. “You can wait forever and the timing is never right. You just gotta do it.”
She decided to keep all of the cake recipes from the original owners of Maribelle. Those were the recipes the community came to know and love. Grillo gussied up the buttercream recipe and introduced fondant and modeling chocolate to their classic cakes and put her creative stamp on them through presentation.
There’s a common saying in the culinary world: “You eat with your eyes first.” While having high-quality ingredients and tasty treats is at the top of Grillo’s priorities for her business, she also strives to create the most beautiful pastries possible.
“That’s the No. 1 rule: They have to taste delicious, but they also have to look delicious,” she says.
While Maribelle serves special-event cake needs, Grillo was missing a storefront; the bakery’s kitchen sits on a one-way street in Cheviot that doesn’t get much foot traffic.
“It’s a great spot for private tastings; it’s not great for walk-ins,” Grillo says.
So she kept her eyes peeled for the right space where her dream pastry shop could live.
Maribelle will remain in Cheviot, piping frosting and layering cakes, but Grillo’s new venture, Mon Petit Choux, seeks to serve a different need in the community.
“The ultimate goal for this location is to be a high-quality pastry shop,” she says. “I don’t want it to be super expensive, and I don’t want to carry stuff that you would see at a normal bakery.”
While this shop is heavily inspired by French cafés, Grillo still plans to serve the American classics, so brownie lovers can rest easy.
Mon Petit Choux’s new home will be in a light, airy space on Court Street downtown. The shop will focus primarily on pastries and leave the birthday cakes to Maribelle. Expect classic French delicacies including, but not limited to: fruit tarts, eclairs, macaron towers, croquembouche and cream puffs, the shop’s purposely misspelled namesake.
“Mon petit chou” is a French term of endearment, literally translating to “my little cabbage.” Court Street’s future pastry shop is a play on words, replacing “chou” with “choux,” from pâte à choux, the pastry dough used to make cream puffs.
Grillo says she especially loves making cakes and could spend hours shaping sugar flowers, but her first love will always be fruit tarts.
“Every time I see a really beautiful display case, I always go for the fruit tart,” she says.
But the plan for Mon Petit Choux isn’t just to serve passersby looking for a treat. There will be a lunch menu for those who want midday sustenance and espresso from Deeper Roots Coffee for those looking to break through that 2:30 p.m. fog. Eventually, Grillo wants to open the space up for elaborate events.
“We want to get to a point where we can do really creative parties and make the space really enchanting,” she says.
Grillo has dreams of expansion and growth in the coming years. “We have big goals. And when I say we, I include my team,” she says. “Everyone’s going to be a part of this business as it grows. We make more money; they make more money.”
She explains her vision for the future of her company as a central hub (Maribelle) and several sub-companies. Mon Petit Choux is the first in the potential chain of businesses that will feed into one another. The goal is to be largely self-sourcing, but for now Grillo buys what she can’t make from local vendors when possible.
“It has to be something that happens in time, slowly, and then we grow as we go,” she says.
Pass the time while you wait to get your hands on Mon Petit Choux’s pastries and follow the bakery’s progress on Facebook (@monpetitchouxus).
Mon Petit Choux, 24A W. Court St., Downtown, facebook.com/monpetitchouxus