Sydney's favourite pandemic pastry chefs prepare for a big Valentine's Day


One of the silver linings of COVID, at least for anyone with a fondness of slices and tarts, has been the rise in dessert businesses delivering sweets from oven to door.

"We were getting a bit bored being in lockdown, so we started creating cakes and tarts for delivery," says former Rockpool pastry chef Isabella Leva who founded Earlwood bakery Pane Dolce with her partner John Laureti in 2020.

Like many new dessert businesses to launch in the past two years, Pane Dolce is home-based, eliminating the barrier to entry of needing to sign a commercial lease.

"I'm very lucky to have a dad who works in construction, so he sectioned off a small space in the garage and we fitted it out with a deck ovens, a dough sheeter and big spiral mixer," says Leva. "It's definitely not what you would call a 'home kitchen'."

Pane Dolce's morning buns and weekly-changing pastry boxes were big sellers through lockdown. "Then restrictions were lifted and whole cakes became popular because friends and family could get back together," says Leva.

The business has been such a success that Leva and Laureti and now renovating an old shop in Lewisham to open a brick-and-mortar site next year.


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Instagram has grown from being a social medium to a business tool for any number of small start-ups, fledgling food businesses and unemployed chefs. Take former Pt. Leo Estate (Victoria) chefs, Isabella Leva and John Laureti, who started making and selling weekly pastry boxes when stood down from their restaurant jobs.

Now they're back in Sydney, their Pane Dolce box is a drool-worthy, weekly changing selection of four tarts ($30 to $35) posted on @panedolce2020. Best are the tangy lemon and chiffon, and vibrantly green Mr Pistachio, but it was the crunchy, cinnamon-sugary morning bun ($5), formed from a swirl of laminated croissant pastry, that made my day. Sourdough bread ($10) is another great add-on; sour, dense and not too heavy – and perfect for Instagram.

  • Hot dish: Morning buns

  • When Pick up and delivery Friday-Sunday 9am-1pm (orders open Monday 4pm

  • PD Most Wanted Pastry box

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    After the pandemic struck, Isabella Leva and John Laureti ;were stood down from their jobs at Pt Leo Estate on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. Sourdough and sugar became their salvation: they created Pane Dolce, offering bread and pastry boxes online. When they moved back to Sydney, they brought the concept with them. Pastry chef Leva rotates the tart selection every fortnight: recently, the star items were Mr Pistachio, a pistachio financier with nutty mousse and crushed pistachios on top, and a basil-blitzed creme patisserie with fresh raspberries and compote. Leva's mum even helps out with deliveries.