STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.  — Jimmy Max Restaurant, Westerleigh, was the setting Tuesday night for an intimate gathering to celebrate the Feast of St Joseph with a much-anticipated “Quest for the Best Italian Pastry” party.

The annual tradition was once again hosted by Joseph and Trish Laino, Annadale, and Brenda and Steve Laino, Westerleigh, in honor of St. Joseph.

In the photo above, Joe Laino takes the first bite at the unofficial pastry taste-off.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Members of the Laino family are pictured above.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

About 30 gathered Tuesday night for traditional Italian fare, including rice balls, calamari, cold antipasti, eggplant rollatini, and eight varieties of pizza. The feast was followed by luscious samples of sfinges, some with cannoli cream, others with butter cream.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Pastries from 34 bakeries from all over New York City and New Jersey were sampled.

”I still can’t believe we were able to get to all 34 bakeries to get the pastries,” said Joe Laino. “I actually went to four other places, two on Staten Island but they didn’t make thems this year. I went to two places in Brooklyn, but one didn’t do them and another in Bay Ridge Bakery who were out of them by the afternoon; that leaves me some room for next year!”

Dr. Gracelyn Santos | gsantos@siadvance.com

The 34 bakeries included for consideration this year by the Laino family included: From New Jersey: La Bonbonniere of Woodbridge & Del Ponte’s of Bradley Beach.

From Staten Island: LaBella’s of Tottenville, Belli Baci, Top Tomato, Shop Rite, LaDolce Bakery, Annadale Bakery, Aunt Butchies in Tottenville, Montabano’s of Rossville, Amici’s Bakery, Holterman’s, Mark’s Bake Shoppe, Novelli’s, Piece of Cake, Pasticceria Bruno, Royal Crown Bakery, Buono Bakery, Little Italy Gourmet, Filoncino’s, Frank & Sal’s, Pastosa’s of Richmond Rd., Rispoli’s Bakery, Moretti’s Bakery, Renato’s Bakery, Enzo & Tino’s Bake Shop & Sweet Life Bake Shop.

From Brooklyn: Grisman’s Bakery on 86th St., Villabate Alba 18th Ave., Rimini Pastry Shop on Bay Pkwy, Reliable Bakery 18th Ave., Leske’s on 5th Ave., Paneantico Bakery & Cafe on 3rd; and finally Jean Danet on 5th Ave.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

“Growing up in an Italian-Catholic family, St. Joseph’s Day was always celebrated with the tradition of the pastries,” recalled Laino. “Our family holidays and gatherings always consisted of food. Lots of food. It was what always left an impression on me.”

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Present at the unofficial taste-off Tuesday night was the matriarch of the Laino clan, Jennie Laino, mother to five boys, 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren — with one on the way in May. Her husband, Frank, passed away years ago.

“I am lucky to have such good boys,” she said. “Growing up, I was always cooking because they were always hungry. They were active and played sports, and so they had big appetites. They like good food. They like celebrating St. Joseph’s with Italian pastries.”

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

For the Laino family, St. Joseph Day became a celebration of the five Laino brothers, who all have Joseph as a first or middle name. But March 19 also became the day to celebrate the arrival of the first child of Joe’s brother Steve and his wife, Brenda.

Their adopted daughter, Arielle Laino, arrived on March 19, 2012. “Brenda and Steve have always celebrated with me, so this made it a double celebration,” said Laino, gofather to Arielle, who is pictured in the photo above..

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

“The competition really stepped up this year, but it seems the consensus was —  for cannoli cream, Buono Bakery takes the title,” said Laino.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Collecting all the pastries from all the different bakeries was time consuming. “My brother Steve went to ten bakeries and picked up pastries 23 other bakeries.,” said Joe. “It took me 10 hours, total. My other brother Frank brought one from Bradley Beach.”

Since the Laino family knows how good the pastries from Buono’s are, it was represented three times. “I went, my brother Steve went and my Aunt Jean brought some from there as well,” said Joe. “This way we knew everyone at the party had a shot to taste them.”

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

“For custard, it was tough. But Belli Baci Bakery in Tottenville wins,” declared Laino.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Arielle and Alexis Laino are all smiles after tasting some Italian pastries.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

“New catagories. La Bella Market Place wowed us with their chocolate cannoli cream and their strawbwerry and cream ones,” said Laino.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

“Villa Abbate Alba was the winner for chocolate custard, and La Bonbonniere Bake Shoppe in Woodbridge, N.J., was tops for their Bailey’s cream,” added Laino.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Honorable mentions?  “Mark’s Bake Shop, La Dolce Bakery, Renato’s Bakery, Montalbano’s of Rossville and Annadale Bakery,” stated Laino.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Trish and Joseph Laino pose for a photo at their annual St. Joseph’s “Quest for the Best Italian Pastry” party Tuesday night.

Added Joe: “Oh and just an extra side note, the chocolate covered cannolis from Jean Danet Bakery from Bay Ridge are always a big hit!”

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Joe Laino, left, is pictured with Kevin Adams, Joe Arnone, Vinny Cangiano. Trish Cangiano is foreground.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Kristina, Traci, and Daniella Cangiano were guests of the Lainos for the Italian pastry taste-off.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Delicious pizzas by Jimmy Max were part of the feast.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Pastries displayed for the guests.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

“My father’s mother was right off the boat. She took great pride in her cooking and great pleasure in serving her family her amazing meals,” recalled Laino. “Every time we went there to eat it was a feast. Needless to say, I came from a family of big eaters.”

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Guests are all smiles after sampling some tasty Italian pastries.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Cannoli and creme-filled pastries share a box.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Trish Laino organizes the Italian pastries for her guests.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

Delctable Italian pastries with cherries on top.

Staten Island Advance/Dr. Gracelyn Santos

The Laino family: Joe, Frank, Jennie and Steve at the annual St. Joseph’s “Quest for the Best Italian Pastry” party.

Joe Laino of Annadale enjoys a pastry and is already planning for the 2020 Italian taste-off.

Source: Mouth-watering photos from ‘Quest for the Best Italian Pastry’ party