With plenty of parking on both sides of 1253 May River Rd., Twisted European Bakery is the perfect place to take a break from holiday shopping. Whether stopping by to pick up an Italian baguette or Christmas cookies on the run, or taking time to enjoy a hot beverage and French pastry, you will fall in love at first smell.
"We wanted to make it so that everybody can see what we're doing," said owner Stephanie Pisano. "They not only smell it, they see it," she said, as manager and head baker Chris Veneris lifted loaves of artisan bread stuffed with Kalamata olives, feta cheese and Mediterranean herbs from ovens behind the display case.
Everything at this family-owned bakery in the heart of Bluffton is made on premises fresh daily, from scratch. Featured are breads, from $3.50 to $12; cream-filled Napoleons, $5 per towering slice; pies, $12 to $15; ice cream from Leopold's of Savannah; cinnamon buns; Hamantash, a triangular pastry recognized by Jewish clientele as something their grandmothers used to make. This is a friendly new spot steeped in Old World baking traditions from Italy, Greece, Germany and France.
It all came about by what Pisano, a former beauty salon-spa owner and certified life coach, calls a twist of fate. "It's how we got our name," she said. Circa 1970, she was about 10, and Veneris was the skinny blond teenager with the funny accent who, along with his father, worked for Pisano's grandfather at Jim's Bakery in South Philadelphia.
But Veneris's father missed Greece, so his family went back. When the Greek economy soured around 2009, Veneris, who was divorced, worried that his two sons weren't going to have a future. He returned to America, eventually making his way back to South Philly, where he found Jim's bakery closed.
On the street, he asked a woman visiting her mother, who lived next to the bakery, what happened to Jim and his family. The woman told him Jim had died but his granddaughter, Stephanie, had a business nearby. She gave him the address and texted her friend Pisano "that some guy with a funny accent was asking about my grandfather and was on his way," Pisano said.
Pisano's salon was closed that day but her cell number was on a sign in the window. "Chris called," she said. "This is 45 years later, and I remembered his voice."
Pisano, also divorced with a then-teenage daughter, and Veneris soon became a couple. They moved here this year and opened Twisted days before Hurricane Matthew hit.
For more information and hours, visit www.twistedeuropeanbakery.com or call 843-757-0033.
Freelance writer Pam Gallagher was a copy editor at USA Today and a staff writer and fashion editor for the Asbury Park Press.