Three Bites Bakery delights with globally inspired sweet treats and spicy mini-pizzas

This to-go-oriented cafe and bakery on the Near East Side serves superb baked goods with multinational influences, plus savory items like spicy, delicious little pizzas

G.A. Benton
A collection of pastries, including the seasonal Earl grey lavender honey cake (on the right), at Three Bites Bakery

I recently ate a pizza so spicy and delicious that it momentarily stopped me in my tracks. You might be surprised that I’m describing a pre-cooked, personal-sized pie served at room temperature.

What’s more, that intense little disc wasn’t made in a pizzeria, but rather a place whose specialty is pastries, cookies and cakes with influences that hop across several nations. Welcome to wonderful Three Bites Bakery.

Open since mid-March in the King-Lincoln Bronzeville neighborhood, Three Bites — a to-go-oriented cafe and bakery whose limited seating is uplifted by tasteful decorations — has actually been around for a couple of years as a pop-up business and “side gig” for owner Isabella Bonello. As conveyed in a recent email, Bonello’s diverse experiences, along with talent and hard work, help explain why her initial business is an out-of-the-gate standout bakery that embraces multinational flavors.

Three Bites Bakery

“I kinda grew up everywhere and nowhere,” Bonello wrote as a preamble to a backstory that includes: being born in Oxford, England in 1990 to an Italian father and Filipina mother; living in Italy, Germany and California before moving to Columbus, where she attended Fort Hayes high school and then Ohio State, where she earned a bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Italian; working as a line cook, bar back and bartender; honing her impressive baking skills at stellar operations like Pistacia Vera and Fox in the Snow Cafe.

Back to pizza. That aforementioned beauty, one of Three Bites’ gorgonzola and speck pizzette ($7; pizzette is “little pizzas” in Italian), featured a thin-yet-crunchy crust, plus earthiness from blue cheese and cooked-to-crisp speck (cured Italian-style ham) offset by fiery house chile oil and tangy tomato sauce. The pizzette often sell out when they’re available — the bakery’s wares vary daily — so I recommend pre-ordering them online.

Mushroom, gorgonzola and chile oil pizzette

Two other frequently available $7 savory items — arugula-garnished, pre-made and refrigerated sandwiches in baguette-style bread — weren't in the same league, but were heartier and pretty good. While I preferred the sandwich assembled with artichokes, mushrooms, leeks and cream cheese, the prosciutto and brie model made a solid lunch, too.   

Now to the outstanding baked goods, which can be eaten as treats or (life is short, right?) stockpiled into a meal. Unless noted otherwise, the following pastries were $4 apiece. 

That money bought a fantastic kouign-amann. As elegant as it was decadent, the flaky confection (whose name, in the Breton language, means “butter cake” for good reason) was a delightfully crinkly, muffin-shaped pastry that, while croissant-like, tasted like a palmier.  

Croissant-style dough is also used to make the nifty, cinnamon-scented, sugar-crusted (many items here are sugar-crusted; none are overly sweet) orange-cardamom twist and Three Bites’ overachieving baklava morning bun. With its sticky-cinnamon-roll-style construction and “I can’t eat this fast enough” flavor and texture, the latter might ruin you for other nut-adorned things called baklava.

Tartlet at Three Bites Bakery

Cornetti — the generally softer and sweeter Italian cousins of croissants — at Three Bites were crisper, fancier, Nutella-filled and better than many I’ve had in Italy. If Italian-style doughnuts with creamy fillings sound good — and boy, are they — target the bomboloni.

Bonello’s Filipina roots shine in delightful fare like ube pandesal with cheese — think yeasty, strikingly purple dinner rolls with golden sprinkles and a Velveeta-in-the-center surprise — and the comforting biko, a soft-yet-chewy, brownie-esque, glutinous rice cake enhanced by toasted macadamias, coconut and caramel notes.

Ube Pandesal with cheese filling

Offerings have also included addictive, crusted-yet-puffy Mexican hot-chocolate cookies with hints of cinnamon and chile (2 for $4); barely sweetened, coffee-dunking-ready Chinese pineapple buns; marvelous banana tartlets; and cake-like slices of chocolate-marbled banana bread.

Speaking of cake, if any slices are available ($5), don’t hesitate. Three Bites’ superb strawberry with pistachio and/or refreshing grapefruit with ginger can make every day seem worth celebrating — even if you missed out on the pizzette because you arrived late and neglected to order ahead.

Three Bites Bakery

999 Mount Vernon Ave., Near East Side