| Dessert |

Despite its Cake Boss Fame, is Carlo's Bakery Worth the Hassle?

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Carlo's Bakery (of Cake Boss fame) celebrated the grand opening of their first Dallas location in March.  To get a cannoli on opening morning, you had to camp out overnight, which left many people long-faced and pastryless. In the weeks that followed, long lines continued to wind through the bakery, often spilling out onto the sidewalk. This month, a beacon of light began to shine: Carlo's launched their Grab & Go online ordering system. But is this really a clever way to bypass the long lines, or just an illusion? We gave it a try.

My Order: Four "lobster tail" pastries (two Nutella, two salted caramel)

Order placed: 1:22 p.m. Tuesday

Pick-up time: 5:15 p.m. Wednesday  (Orders must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.)

When I arrived:  5:11 p.m.

The line situation: Eight customers in line to order, one ahead of me at the register. Grab & Go customers go straight to the register, while the other suckers are instructed to take a number and wait by the pastry case for a sales representative to help them make selections. This is confusing because the two lines are not clearly delineated. There is no sign indicating "Grab & Go Pick-Up."

Pairs of Louboutins spotted in line: Four

How I was greeted: "Oh, online ordering? Lemme find somebody else." Five minutes later: "What's your order number?" followed by obvious confusion regarding my order's whereabouts. Oddly enough, I did not have my eight-digit order number memorized. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that my email confirmation stated "you do not need this number to pickup." Technically, you don't need it, but not having it might cost you an extra 10 minutes.

Number of customers who left in a huff:  Three. One woman was angry because she had been waiting "for-everrrr" and couldn't wait any longer, one scoffed at the authenticity of their "homemade" cannoli shells and the other claimed — like a third grader — that someone had cut in front of her in line.

What I wish I had brought: Headphones. The music in there is like something preteens would practice gymnastics to.

Whose head I was boring holes into with my glare: The lady in front of me. She had 5,001 questions about custom-order cakes. C'mon, Princess ... Grab & GO!

My new hero: The cashier, who had undoubtedly suffered countless fools that day, yet still mustered the enthusiasm to send me off with a wide smile and a cheerful "Enjoy!" Bless her heart.

Time I left: 5:23 p.m., cradling my pastries like newborns.

Would I do it again? Nope. While the sheer patience it requires to make 1,000 layers of pastry folds is admirable, the results weren't what I expected. Instead of buttery, flaky, layers, my lobster tails were rubbery and stale. While the Nutella filling was pretty good, it was more like chocolate pudding than actual Nutella.

Will you regret trying it once? You can't die without knowing for yourself what those come-hither layers taste like. Just mark my words about the headphones.

Carlo's Bakery, 8319 Preston Road, www.carlosbakery.com

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