One Naperville resident has turned from the salon to the bakery. After 40 years in the beauty industry, Lou O’Brien hung up her blow-dryers and curling irons for the last time. But she recently started another company serving up frozen desserts.
“When I retired from the beauty industry, I was home and got a little bored so I started making cakes for the family,” she said. “My son and his wife and their kids loved them so I started making more. And my nieces and nephews would go “Auntie! Would you make us more?” And my one great nephew, Ryan, goes “Auntie, you should sell those!”
That’s exactly what she started doing, selling cannoli cakes and tubs of the filling that goes inside them.
O’Brien opened up her business “Grandma Toste’s Gourmet Cannoli Filling,” named after her mother, Christina Toste.
“She was a great cook and worked in my father’s restaurant,” said O’Brien. “She was just an amazing lady. She taught us how to be a great wife and mother and an amazing cook. Everybody loved her.”
So to honor her, O’Brien continued to base her sweets off the Toste family recipe, which dates back to the 1940’s.
“Our cannoli filling isn’t like a typically Sicilian Italian filling,” said O’Brien. “We took my mother’s recipe and tweaked it a little bit. It’s a real light, gourmet filling. It has a lemony-zest base to it and a little almond flavor to it. So it’s real light. It only has like 38 calories in two tablespoons so it’s not fattening.”
O’Brien spends several days a week at the “From Scratch Market Place” in LaGrange where she creates the filling, as well as cinnamon-flavored chips to dip them in.
She also packages several do-it-yourself kits that include the filling and various types of pastries, from cannoli shells to philo cups to mini tarts.
O’Brien showed me how easy it is to create a platter of her treats. In less than 10 minutes you can enjoy a delicious dessert spread.
Her cannoli kits, chips, dip, and cakes can all be found in several area grocery stores, including Casey’s Foods.
“The first person I went to was Dan Casey at Casey’s in Naperville and I walked in there – was never used to selling and my hands were shaking and I sat down with him,” said O’Brien. “Dan is adorable. He was like my first client. And he was so kind and so gracious and put our products in his store and it was just wonderful.”
Grandma Toste’s cannoli kits are also sold at garden fresh market and the filling is used in desserts made at the Naperville Country Club.
O’Brien has also launched her own website for her business, www.grandmatoste.com.
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