Washington, DC: Sweetbites is opening a cafe and bakery in McLean

Sandra Panetta started Sweetbites as a food truck. Now she's opening a cafe and bakery. (Dixie Vereen for The Washington Post)

By Becky Krystal  | Washington Post

Sandra Panetta started Sweetbites as a food truck. Now she's opening a cafe and bakery. (Dixie Vereen for The Washington Post)
Sandra Panetta started Sweetbites as a food truck. Now she’s opening a cafe and bakery.
(Dixie Vereen for The Washington Post)

Just when we thought our new-bakery bucket list couldn’t get any longer, Sweetbites is opening a cafe and bakery in McLean.

Sandra Panetta launched Sweetbites as a dessert truck in 2010, leaving behind a job as a policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency. She’d spent more than a decade running a dessert catering business on the side.

“It was one of the first trucks in D.C.,” Panetta said. “It was one of the pioneers in the business.”

Now she sees the food truck industry in Washington flourishing. She decided it was time to take the next step: She’s taking over the space of a former deli, and hopes to open her bakery by the end of April.

Expect freshly baked, from-scratch goods available from morning into early evening.

“The menu is going to change quite frequently, and I think that will be exciting for people,” said Panetta, who credits her lifelong love of baking to her family’s Italian heritage.

Panetta’s repertoire includes cookies, cakes, brownies, fruit tarts and 50 flavors of cupcakes. At breakfast, expect muffins, egg dishes and sweet and savory scones, such as a roasted butternut squash version with feta and sage. Salads, sandwiches and soups will be available for lunch.

Layer cakes will also feature prominently, including by the slice, a treat Panetta called “comforting and classic.” Flavors in the rotation: chocolate midnight, lemon cloud, tiramisu and Baci, inspired by the Italian chocolate hazelnut candy. Panetta spikes her brownies with different flavors, from peppermint tea to ancho chili. She also plans to offer seasonal fruit tarts.

Panetta has been emboldened to expand her offerings now that she has a larger facility. Previously she’d been working out of a commercial kitchen she built at the back of her house in McLean. (“How do I get one of those?” every home baker is now wondering.)

“It was very convenient,” Panetta said. “My neighbors loved it.”

She said a burden has been lifted now that she’s not subject to the whims of the District food truck lottery for vending positions for a few hours a day or two per week. “We’ll be able to be open six days a week from morning to evening,” she said. “That’s a huge difference.”

But Sweetbites mobile fans, fear not. The truck is temporarily off the road but will return.

“We have a very big following that we’ve grown over the years,” Panetta said.

Sweetbites, 6845 Elm St., McLean. 703-371-7148.www.sweetbitescafe.com. Opening later this month.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/going-out-guide/wp/2015/04/20/sweetbites-is-opening-a-cafe-and-bakery-in-mclean/