A new dessert option will be available shortly in downtown Schenectady as the Cocobar opens its doors.
As the name suggests, the emphasis is on chocolate, and a floor-to-ceiling glass wall will allow visitors to watch the treats being prepared.
The little dessert shop is the latest venture of the Mallozzi family, next door to their Johnny’s restaurant, around the corner from their Villa Italia bakery and across town from the Rivers Casino and Resort, where the family provides the dining options. Its proprietor is 19-year-old Olivia Mallozzi, the third generation in the family business and the youngest to formally be part of the operation. (Her 5- and 7-year-old cousins have been working as taste-testers on an informal basis.)
She is a business student at Schenectady County Community College and will continue her studies on a reduced schedule as she gets the new venture up and running. She’d previously worked behind the counter and in the kitchen at the bakery, and recalls herself considering how she’d go into the family business, not if.
“I knew I wanted to dip my toes in the water,” she said. “I wanted to try to do what they do — I love working with people, I like being with our family. There’s not really anything else I want to do.”
Her father, John Mallozzi, said he didn’t recruit her but did encourage her once she made up her mind herself.
“It’s kind of similar to the way that we were growing up with our parents in the business,” he said. “They never really pushed it. It was there if we were interested, and they welcomed it. I wanted to do the same thing for my children. It’s not something we ever wanted to push them into but if they were interested we wanted to help them along, just like our father did for us.”
It’s not an easy job with easy hours but it does have the side benefit of keeping the family close together, John Mallozzi added.
Olivia Mallozzi lives 10 minutes away in Rotterdam.
She says chocolate seemed like a good bet for the new venture, since so many people like it so much.
“I think what’s interesting here is that we’re doing dipped chocolate rather than truffles. I looked everywhere and tested things and a lot of what I saw was truffles.”
In a nod to the past, the sleek shop at 433 State St. has a reconditioned NCR cash register identical to the one in the original Villa Italia bakery her grandfather Joseph opened in Rotterdam in 1965.
Rounding out the menu are chocolate and vanilla soft-serve custard and roasted nuts with a cinnamon-sugar coating. The soft-serve machine is up and running as Olivia Mallozzi tests and fine-tunes the custard recipe before opening day, with the help of her father and uncle Bobby. An imported nut roaster is sitting on the counter and ready to go. Yet to be installed is the chocolate-dipping station.
The rest of the store, glass and antiqued wood, is nearly complete.
The storefront space previously was home to a temporary Rivers Casino & Resort office and has been under conversion the last several weeks. A few last components that need to be fabricated, delivered and installed will push the opening date back a few more weeks, perhaps to early August.
Olivia Mallozzi says she likes all chocolate, and will put it all on the menu, but pressed for a favorite — white, light or dark — she’d go with milk chocolate.
Much of her inspiration for flavor and preparation comes from growing up in and around a bakery. She’ll be making a crunchy almond butter confection and savoring the aroma from cinnamon sugar carmelizing onto almonds and cashews as she works the counter.
“The smell is like nothing else,” she said.
Cocobar will remain focused on chocolate and nuts for the immediate future, she added.
“I think to start we’re going to keep it small and focused on this, make this as good as it can be.”