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Tasty sweets from the East at Pinisi

Since September 2006, the inhabitants of the East Village have been blessed by a gift from the Far East.

Inside you'll find golden delicacies - intricate works of art handcrafted with the utmost attention to detail. They glisten. They sparkle. They beg to be taken.

What I speak of is not illegal contraband, but rather the pies, pastries, cookies and cakes of Andi Igusti's Pinisi Cafe & Bakery.

Originally from Bali, Indonesia, he spent 20 years cooking around the world before settling in New York. He pulls influences from French, Italian and, most prominently, American baking styles.

His approach is simple and earnest: "I wanted to create a bakery of bold, basic tastes," he said.

"You have Payard doing upscale French, Veniero's covering Italian and Magnolia appealing to teenagers," he said. "I wanted to do something traditional, nothing too fancy."

Palmiers, rugala, turnovers, muffins, scones and croissants are just the tip of his culinary repertoire.

On the glass pane window outside, it proudly claims "All Baking Done on Premises" - a creed he thoroughly stands by.

"I bake it all by myself - it's easier that way," he said cheerfully.

The croissants he bakes are perplexingly flaky and buttery on the outside, yet tangy and doughy on the inside. Enfolded by a delicate crunch, the yeasty interior offers a pleasant chew.

Sweet as honey and leaden as a brick, the raspberry rugala was like that of a Fig Newton upgraded thoroughly. Incorporating raisins, almonds and what almost tasted like bits of fig, it left my tongue tingling after each bite.

Yet Igusti's personal favorite, as well as the customers' favorite, remains the red velvet cake. Available both in slice and cupcake form, it truly is unlike any other. Where Magnolia might opt for more sugar, Pinisi instead aims for a true, bold flavor. Paired with a rich cream cheese icing, the two combine for a wonderful balance.

For $3.50 a slice though, it seems supply and demand have made a noticeable impact.

Nonetheless, the rest of his sweets - rainbow cookies, blueberry crumb cake and a hot and spicy chocolate dome - reflect his broad range of talent. Filled with a dense, mousse-like interior, the dome is an original creation of Igusti.

In terms of cakes and pie: Pecan pie, carrot cake and a berry-topped cheesecake are just a tidbit of the flavors he cycles through.

The crème brûlée is less of a thick custard and more of a sweet, vanilla pudding. Topped with a fanned strawberry and fragile sugar crust, the rich, eggy syrup inside was rather delightful.

What was most noticeable, though, is the dedicated neighborhood presence within Pinisi. Loyal patrons from just around the corner or down the street offered positive remarks and praise for the year-old establishment.

Even an old woman by the name of Maria felt compelled to bring me aside and extol Igusti's baked goods.

Their treats may not have yet reached world-famous status, but there's always the potential. After being around for one year, I'd say this quaint little place has done quite well without the support of a Carrie Bradshaw cameo. I suppose we'll all just have to wait and see whether or not one of those double-decker tour buses will eventually sail on over.

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