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Sweet Spots 

Freshly made international delights

The closest many of us come to a bakery or pastry shop is ordering a muffin at Starbucks. Yet the number of small international bakeries in Charlotte is growing -- particularly among the Latino sector. Why? Because Latinos prefer to buy bread fresh daily and to treat themselves to sweets made fresh. New to Charlotte are the Salvadorian bakeries which are both good and inexpensive. Here are a few international sweet spots around town.

"Try it, you'll like it" was about the only English I could get from the owner of Pan Salvadoreño. In this location, which was once a Thai restaurant, is a thriving Latino bakery that also serves Chinese food. (Gotta love Charlotte.) The bakery items, though, are identified solamente en español. Folks crowded the entrance to buy bags of dinner rolls ($.25 each); colorful cookies, some with maraschino cherries and others that were less sweet with sesame seeds; square cakes; muffins that tasted like a Duncan Hines yellow cake mix; and other pastries. A full bag of sweets will cost you less than $3.

Pan Salvadoreño, 4800 Central Ave., 704-568-9161.

If you like Entenmann's Crumb Cake, try real crumb cake at Dianne Pasciolla's Decadent Designs Bakery, which opened in February and already has developed a good reputation for her cakes. Pasciolla requires cake orders ten days in advance. Behind the glass case are exquisite, ready-to-eat bundt cakes ($3), cream puffs, chocolate éclairs with extra thick chocolate icing ($3.50), brownies, traditional American cookies, and some Italian ones including a sesame cookie begging for espresso. The best, though, are the pasticiotti, Italian mini pies. Pasciolla moved to Charlotte from Paramus, New Jersey.

Decadent Designs Bakery, 11914 Elm St., 704-542-7749. Closed Monday. www.decadentdesignsbakery.com.

Russian "rullet"? This rullet is a decadent bakery item stuffed with apricot and cheese in a challah-like, dense sweet bread. You can find this and other flavors for $3.50 at the Europe Food Store, which also imports an astonishing selection of tortes and cakes from a Russian bakery in Brooklyn, NY. "These are too hard for an individual to make," noted the clerk. "Even in Russia, we buy these from a bakery." The plum cake was layered with plum pulp, cake, cheese and whipped cream. Cakes sell for $4.69 per pound, or a remarkable $2 per one inch slice.

Europe Food Store, 7022 Lawyers Road, 704-536-3382.

One of the best Mexican bakeries in the city is Odalys. The most popular they become, the larger the bakery and pastry selection gets. Note: Mexican cookies are not overtly sweet. Look for the special baked goods at Easter.

Odalys Bakery, 4404 East Independence Blvd., 704-535-8100.

The finest in Mediterranean treats is handily found at Ilios Noches. Pastry chef Frank Kaltsounis dazzles customers with his imagination. In the glass case is his incredible Greek baklava, the best I have had. His brownies, scones, loukoumades, tarts and semolina custard wrapped in filo are all excellent.

Ilios Noche, 11508 Providence Road, 704-814-9882.

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