SPRING HILL — Kathie Strozzi knows a thing or two about how to make a decadent desert even better. Dip it, drizzle it or smother it in her own hand-crafted chocolate confection. That effort, along with a proven skill for crafting Italian sweet treats, has successfully earned her a nickname that sticks.
Kathie the Chocolate Lady has opened inside Towne Square Mall, adding something sweet to the diverse lineup of merchants. She’s settling in with a hefty arrangement of samples and fresh baked goods for purchase from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And her business is on a sweet track as her customer base realizes she’s back.
Strozzi built her business from a hobby. Her real job for more than a decade was serving La Bella Napoli customers as the head server. And she baked on the side, mainly for friends, events and special occasions. But health issues forced her retirement. And to stay busy, Strozzi turned to her creative passion.
She admits cooking and baking have always been her favorite de-stressing therapies. Now she is doing it full time.
Strozzi chocolate-dips seasonal fruits, like oranges, cherries, pineapple and berries, and novelty goods, like potato chips, pretzels, bacon, and nuts. She bakes custom cakes, cookies, and other sweet novelties. Ricotta cheese and spinach pies — in a bread dough crust with hot Italian sausage and feta — are also specialties.
Perhaps Strozzi’s own chocolate, which she crafted through lots of experimentation, is her most noted signature statement.
“I have created a unique blend of covertures chocolate, Merkens, bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolates,” she explained. “The mix of these chocolates creates a smooth and flowing dark chocolate delight, quite pleasant to the palate.” The chocolate recipe took her about three months to perfect.
Her classic recipes were passed down through the years, many from family favorites. Others she created on her own and tweaked to fit her customers’ requests.
“I will bake anything and everything on the menu and then some,” Strozzi said. “And if you don’t see it there, all you have to do is ask. If I can do it I definitely will.”
Saundra Piercy is one of Strozzi’s loyalist fans. “I’ve been using her for years,” said Piercy. “Her carrot cake is to kill for. And her chocolate (treats), I’ve been having her make me baskets for years.”
Strozzi filled color themed boxes Piercy had purchased with chocolate treats and cookies for her 25th wedding anniversary and enclosed a note And the Party Goes On. “We’ve had this romance going for years,” she added.
Customers can purchase fresh goods to take home or cross the aisle to Mike’s Café; where they might enjoy a drink along with their baked good. The two merchants made a deal to support each other.
Kathie the Chocolate Lady is taking holiday orders for custom desserts, gift boxes and baskets. And she will continue until about a week before Christmas.
She is a master of her craft. “Nothing is from a box,” she said. “It’s all right here in my head.”
Towne Square Mall is at 3021 Commercial Way. Kathie the Chocolate Lady is in Booth #47, across from Mike’s Cafe. She can be reached at 352-346-8383. Follow her on Facebook, Kathie Strozzi. Visa and MasterCard are welcome.