Alpharetta is the last place you’d expect to find a slice of New York. But that is exactly where Long Island native Bill Clementi and his partners, Stephen Bishop and Anthony DeTommaso, opened Alpine Bakery & Pizzeria (295 Rucker Road, Alpharetta, 770-410-9883, www.alpinebakeryandpizzeria.com).
Clementi grew up around dough. Some of his mostly Sicilian family were in the pizza and restaurant business. But it was his grandfather, a baker, who inspired a young Clementi to begin writing and compiling the book of recipes he still uses today. After one too many torturous New York commutes, Clementi moved down to Georgia. He eventually opened a pizzeria with Bishop and DeTommaso, whom he met while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. But things really came together when Clementi started baking cakes in his basement for a friend’s restaurant. The operation quickly expanded from its meager beginnings into an 8,000-square-foot bakery cranking out cakes for a long list of restaurant clients; the retail location opened some 18 years later.
Walking into the bakery can be pleasantly overwhelming. The cases and shelves are filled with virtually every Italian-American treat imaginable. In true New York fashion, one case is filled with a large assortment of ornate cakes — such as strawberry shortcake, German chocolate and carrot — stacked high with more layers than you can count. If a whole cake is more than you need, most are available by the slice. A favorite, the coconut cake made with moist pillows of white cake and ethereal coconut cream, is sliced into an enormous wedge and draped in rich dark chocolate.
The cannoli are a paradigm of what the classic Sicilian treat should be. Each crispy fried pastry shell — available in mini and regular sizes — is filled to order with a creamy mixture of premium ricotta impastata, sugar, vanilla and other “secret” ingredients before the ends are encrusted with tiny chocolate chips. Cookie fiends will have a hard time choosing from the expansive assortment, but there are some standouts. Oreo and chocolate lovers will adore the espresso cookies, a sandwich of two crumbly espresso-flavored chocolate cookies slathered with a thick layer of chocolate ganache. The notoriously hard to replicate Black & White cookies are moist, but not too cakey. And the bicolor frosting is just dry enough.
After being open a year, Alpine took over the neighboring space and added a New York-style pizzeria. A lofty endeavor since many claim New York-style pizza is a hard thing to replicate. Clementi insists, “it’s not the water, it’s the baker. Most bakers don’t adjust their dough recipe to the weather. I do.” The pizzeria menu is only available for takeout, but it travels well. All of the ingredients — including the meatballs and sausage — are made from scratch. The “Original N.Y. style” is a solid version with a crackly crust topped with homemade pizza sauce and gooey Grande cheese. But the real star is the stromboli that resembles a rolled-up pizza. The best version is the Italian, a mix of ham, salami, cappicola and provolone cheese. The heat of the oven and the melting cheese weld each layer of filling together inside the puffed-up cylinder.
The bakery has its sights set on opening a second location, possibly ITP, in the future — good news for those who aren’t fond of trekking OTP. But the drive is a small price to pay for such an authentic taste of New York.