• Sweet Bites is bringing the cupcake love to Vineyard Haven.

Sweet Bites Arrives Just in Time to Sugar Up the Holidays

  • Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 2:28pm

Sweet Bites Bakery opened six days before Thanksgiving, and was immediately inundated with orders for holiday cakes and pies. It was the best welcome during the off-season Valerio and Sonia Destefani could imagine.

Sweet Bites specializes in Brazilian treats such as the intoxicating brigadeiros, a chocolate bon bon-like treat that melts in the mouth. The bakery also offers moist, airy cake by the slice (strawberry Nutella, caramel and prune, coconut covered) all frosted with whipped cream, sandwiches for both breakfast and lunch, meat pies, and a variety of muffins, cupcakes and tarts.

Mr. Destefani summed up the Brazilian approach to recipes simply.

“Most of everything that’s sweet, stick with coconut,” he said. “Coconut, it grows everywhere in Brazil.”

The bakery opened in the former Beetlebung Cafe space, across from the post office. — Mark Lovewell

Inside the small space, located across the street from the Vineyard Haven post office in the old Beetlebung Cafe location, bakers zip around behind the counter, each topped with a cloud-like baker’s hat. The open-plan kitchen is one of Mrs. Destefani’s favorite parts of the shop.

“I can cook, I can see people and I can talk to people,” she said. “I like the contact, people and kitchen together.”

Sweet Bites’ opening was long awaited; they were delayed getting the plumbing and heat up and running, Mr. Destefani said. The Coming Soon sign in the window became a bit of a joke.

“I would say back when I hung the word, I didn’t know the meaning,” Mr. Destefani said.

Mr. Destefani is not a new face in the Vineyard Haven business scene nor to business in general. In his native Brazil, he owned a butchery and a grocery store with his father before moving to Boston in 2012. From Boston, it took less than a month to find the Vineyard. Mr. Destefani recalled how when he first arrived on the Island, the Brazilian community was much smaller.

“The [Brazilian] population grew so fast over here...when I came it was a few hundred,” he said. “I fell in love because the idea of the Island, you don’t have traffic lights, you don’t have craziness, it’s the same in my hometown in Brazil. It’s a small town, everybody knows everybody. I fell in love with this place, I don’t plan to leave ever.”

Valerio and Sonia Destefani also own Bite on the Go. — Mark Lovewell

On the Island, Mr. Destefani began working at Cronig’s Market, then the couple opened Bite on the Go on Circuit avenue. The seasonal nature of the location wasn’t what Mr. Destefani was looking for, though, and after one season he moved to the current location by the Vineyard Haven Shell Station. Bite on the Go is a buffet-style lunch and dinner spot that serves up hearty, healthy meals.

“Slow cooked and fast service...it’s a food that takes three, four, five hours to be cooked,” Mr. Destefani said.

A year and a half ago, William Uemura Rissi came to work for Mr. Destefani at Bite on the Go. Mr. Rissi is a skilled baker and he started making treats for the buffet. Mr. Destefani, a born businessman who loves making other’s dreams come true, saw the opportunity to expand and open a separate bakery.

Mr. Rissi is also from Brazil and started in the kitchen at a young age, helping prepare meals for his parents who worked all day. He found that his true passion was in baking and spent five years working in a bakery in Japan. At Sweet Bites, his favorite treat to make is the lemon meringue tart.

Mr. Destefani had been eyeing the old Beetlebung Cafe space, which had been empty since 2012. The location has only three parking spots, which Mr. Destefani suspects is why it was empty for so long. This doesn’t worry him, though.

“One hundred per cent of people I talk to, the first thing they say, you don’t have parking, you don’t have parking, you don’t have parking,” he said. “And I say, why you need parking? If you have good food, people will find you.”

In the short time the bakery has been open, there has been no issue with people finding Sweet Bites.

Though most of the recipes are Brazilian in nature, Mr. Destefani says the most Brazilian thing in the shop is the handmade style, and the attention given to each dish.

“It’s love of the food,” he said. “It’s really handmade, really from scratch and I think that makes the difference.”

Sweet Bites is located at 32 Beach street in Vineyard Haven. It is open year round, seven days a week, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.