Just saying the name "Felini's" conjures thoughts of freshly baked muffins, scones, cookies and more. Those who have dined at this bakery can't help but have a fondness for Felini's. Shenia (pronounced "Shee-nah") Tillman is the owner, baker and counter help for the downtown location on 5th Street, striking a franchise-inspired deal with the owners of the original Felini's at 3533 S. Harvard.
Opening at 6:30am, Tillman arrives at least by 4:30am to begin the baking process in this tiny little downtown niche for the upcoming day. Her only help is her husband, mother and a loyal friend.
Shortly after 6:30 one morning, I came by Felini's to gather a good sampling of what Tillman baked that morning to share with some friends. I found that a good number of other downtown customers had the same idea. A fine array of muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, turnovers, gourmet cookies and sausage rolls were already prepared.
The menu for the morning is simple and very good. The most popular morning items are the muffins, said Tillman. At $1.50 each, they include banana walnut, apple walnut raisin, blueberry and chocolate chip. The homemade cinnamon rolls are the runner-up in popularity; Tillman said they are "very popular," and she readily admits she cannot take the credit for preparing them. Her husband insists on making those because "he makes them better than me," she said with a little chuckle.
Scones ($1.50) include blueberry, cherry, lemon, strawberry and orange. Turnovers ($1.50) are apple and cherry. Sausage rolls ($1.65) are jalapeno or cheddar, and the cookies (0.65/each or $7/baker's dozen) include chocolate chip with or without nuts, Belgian chocolate, white chocolate almond, oatmeal walnut raisin, snickerdoodle and peanut butter. While Tillman bakes everything herself at the downtown location, she said she buys the cookie dough already prepared from the Harvard Felini's and only bakes the cookies at her location.
All that I purchased this morning were still warm, just out of the oven. The muffins were tall and stately, the body soft and subtle. Each had its own flavor and richness, texture and taste. While they are fabulous in their naked form, butter or even honey are optional additions for an even richer flavor. The sausage rolls are large and filling. The jalapeno version is not peppery hot, but exudes a slight jalapeno flavor; the cheddar is rich and almost soft in texture.
Experience a cinnamon roll and you'll know why they are popular with her customers. They are large and soft, with fine firm texture, rich with frosting and satisfyingly delicious to the palate.
The turnovers are light and filled with lots of fruit and topped with a thickly rich sugary glaze.
But the ultimate satisfaction is savoring the scones. They are soft and light, and the dough is not too sweet. The icing aptly supplies the sweet needed for these gems. Each bite melts in your mouth. Scones have an interesting history, possibly originating in Scotland with a pronunciation ranging from a sound rhyming with "gone" or "hone." Scones are classified as a quick bread (a bread made with a leavening agent such as baking powder and requires no leavening time), and the name seems to be taken from where Scottish kings were formerly crowned, called the Stone of Destiny (or Scone).
Beyond breakfast, Felini's also offers a lunch, where customers can build their own lunch of sandwiches, chef salads and seasonal soups. Tillman said she does a lot of lunch catering for downtown businesses. She has a "build your own sandwich" system, where she prepares trays of sliced ham, turkey, roast beef, and customers can make their own sandwiches. She also has relish trays and, cookies are included.
Tillman began working at Felini's in 1992, taking her turn working the counter and helping with the catering; then in June, 1998, she bought the downtown location from Jim and Vikki Martinus. Their son, Seth, owns and operates the Felini's on Harvard.
Tillman said, "My most excitement each day is to see the expression on my customers' faces when they come in." Tillman has a loyal following of customers who come every day, from secretaries to attorneys. "The customers are the reason I can get up and around and arrive by 4:30 each morning," she said.
Felini's Cookies & Deli Downtown
9 E. 5th St.
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