I love napoleons. Vastly underrated, woefully overlooked thanks to the éclair, cannoli and the tart, the napoleon is a perfect blend of creamy and crunch, savory and sweet.

They are clouds of pastry yumminess.

They are also my unrequited love.  A good one is devastatingly hard to find. This being New York City, you’d think you’d find perfection on every corner.

Not so much. Ironically, every one I try gets compared to the napoleons of my youth, plucked from the bakery at Von’s, a supermarket in the decidedly un-gourmet town of Reseda, California.

The store’s deli also made a mean three-bean salad…but I digress.

The Von’s napoleon was perfectly iced with a white glaze finely drizzled with a hint of chocolate. The sheets of crunchy pastry were layered between pockets of pastry cream that were lightly kissed with vanilla. It was a six-inch rectangle of rapturous bliss, quickly becoming a decadent teenage comfort food. My mother, God bless her, indulged me whenever I asked for one, though she was trying to stretch every dollar to be able to make her own magic in the kitchen.

Years later when I moved to New York, I thought recapturing that memory would be easy. I mean, New York is the food capital of the US. I searched high and low, but found sad attempts designed to improve upon a French classic. Laced with lemon. Nope. Filled with whipped cream. Uh uh. Raspberry puree on top of the pastry cream. Why is that there??

I’d lost all hope until the day I decided to venture up to the second floor of Citarella on 74th and Broadway. I spotted a couple of the familiar pastries in the bakery case. Having been disappointed numerous times before, I was skeptical.

Are they any good? I asked the woman behind the counter.

The best! she replied.

I don’t know, I’ve had lots of bad ones.

Trust me, she said, these are excellent. Just like they make in France.

I was dubious, but decided to try one. I needed to know what the real thing tasted like. I’d only known Reseda.

Victory!!!  Who knew that Reseda had perfectly replicated a French classic? Citarella’s napoleon was blissful and divine perfection; one bite reunited me with my luxurious adolescent treat. The mix of creamy and crunchy textures made me so happy.  No, no, no; not happy.  Rapturous.  It was pure heaven.

Food rapture is a beautiful thing.

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