By Natalie Manitius
A new addition is in the works for the Falls Church food scene: Sweet Belly Cookies. The small dessert business that frequents the Falls Church farmers market recently announced a brick and mortar location opening in The Little City, and hopes for a May opening. For now, through April, Sweet Belly will have a pop-up location at Twisted Vines starting this Thursday, offering cookies and treats to go.
Sweet Belly came into being in 2010 under the name of Panchadulce Artisan Cookies, and was a hobby on the side for Priscilla Giannelli and husband Pat. The business was named after Priscilla’s grandmother, nicknamed Pancha Dulce—which means sweet Grandma, and eventually changed its name to Sweet Belly Cookies. What began as a service for close friends and family became a part of the Falls Church farmers market ensemble in 2011, where it has since been attending year-round. The Giannellis also sell at The Organic Butcher of McLean and Mrs. Green’s in Fairfax.
Though Priscilla’s love for baking initially shaped the business, husband Pat has adopted the operations since. With an extensive background in the restaurant industry, Pat began his career in food at the age of 14 in New York “just scraping floors and killing rats and taking trash out,” Giannelli says. Since then he has worked in restaurant management and other front of the house operations ranging from locations like Mister Days to Ireland’s Four Provinces, where he accumulated an arsenal of bakery knowledge.
The new Falls Church location will be home to the Giannelli’s cookie creations, along with scones, sweet breads and cupcakes. Sweet Belly currently has a dozen cookies to choose from, with selections such as lemon poppyseed and double chocolate sea salt. As a nod to Priscilla’s Peruvian background, Sweet Belly sells alfajor, a South American dessert of dulce de leche sandwiched between two shortbread cookies. Summertime will also make way for the pair’s strawberry basil cookies, made with pesticide-free basil grown in their own backyard.
As for new additions to the repertoire, Giannelli plans to incorporate vegan and gluten-free cookies into the mix. The brick and mortar location also hopes to serve locally sourced coffee as well as fresh pressed orangeade and limeade in the summertime. The bakery will host a variety of local bakers, as “we hope to be featuring local artisans who specialize in their own unique items using fresh high quality ingredients ,” Giannelli says. Sweet Belly bakes everything from scratch and in small batches, and sources eggs, dairy and butter from local vendors. It aims to host like-minded businesses to help them get their start.
Expect the new spot to evoke an earthy, rustic feel. Giannelli hopes to make use of reused and refurbished farm-style furniture, adhering to its focus on keeping things natural. Even the cakes will follow this theme, as Giannelli plans to make cakes without using fondant and artificial additions. /400 S. Maple St, Falls Church. sweetbellycookies.com