Scott Zenreich is an unassuming young man who likes to work in theaters and has spent years working in restaurants. He has a wide smile that shows nothing but sincerity when you meet him, and he speaks with graciousness that makes you want to be his friend.
It almost seems too nice or modest for someone who’s about to have his own production at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
The 33-year-old has written a play that will be part of AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Elevator Project, an effort by the center and the city of Dallas that brings productions from creatives across the city to the different spaces within the PAC.
The play, titled "Pastry King," marries Zenreich’s experience in theater and restaurant work, focusing on a couple who open a pastry shop in the North End of Boston with a goal of making the best cannoli.
“My most recent [restaurant] experience has been with David Uygur at Lucia, and I recently helped them open their new restaurant, Macellaio,” Zenreich says. "It’s been really wonderful being in this atmosphere where people are making fresh bread, fresh pasta, making charcuterie from scratch, and it makes me want to write [about] people that make things — and that really informed this whole play for me.”
In the play, the couple meets one of the city’s most established restaurateurs, Pastry King, and “odd and terrible things start to happen.”
As he gears up for the show that will run April 23 to May 5, Zenreich also happens to be eating plenty of cannoli.
Months ago, Zenreich went to Nina Angelilli — most recently the pastry chef at Sachet — to develop a recipe for a food she had not previously cared for, a cannoli.
“I thought I hated cannoli up until now; I just hadn’t had a good one,” she says. “I think the whole challenge of this project has been [to] take something you never liked and make it good. And I think we’ve done that.”
At her pop-ups, shells are fried and filled to order. The ricotta is homemade, and various recipes make an appearance at different events. Breweries have been particularly welcoming to the effort, Zenreich says.
While attendees of the play will get to actually eat their own cannoli as part of the experience of "Pastry King," Zenreich and Angelilli have more plans for these Sicilian desserts.
They have pop-ups planned throughout the spring to share their cannoli, get the word out about the play and raise funds for the production. (While the city and the Performing Arts Center provide funding and space, additional funding also helps.)
“My big goals are to connect the restaurant industry and the theater industry in a significant way,” Zenreich says.
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“At the beginning of the play, we talk about having the experience of where you eat something, and it stops you in your tracks, like it’s the most delicious thing that you’ve ever experienced — you can’t use your words, it makes you partially drunk for a second.
"That’s something I want other people to experience, because I think a good play and a good restaurant experience are two things that are similar in that you may never forget them for the rest of your life. You’ll remember who you were with and the ingredients that were used, things like that, the culmination of things happening in a room.”
Meet Zenreich and Angelilli — and try a cannoli — at one of their upcoming "Pastry King" cannoli pop-ups:
Jan. 26 at Full City Rooster
Jan. 27 at AJ Vagabonds
Feb. 9 at Checkered Past Winery
Feb. 13 at The Ginger Man
Feb. 14 at Lakewood Brewing Co.
Feb. 23 at Community Beer Company
March 2 at Cidercade
March 3 at Times Ten Cellars
March 7 at Stoney's Wine Lounge
March 9 at Opening Bell Coffee
March 10 at Veritas Wine Room
March 15 at Noble Rey Brewing
March 22 at Las Almas Rotas
March 23 at Peticolas Brewing Co.
March 25 at The Tipsy Alchemist
March 30 at Four Corners Brewing
April 6 at Pegasus City Brewing
April 12 at Davis Street Espresso
April 13 at Noble Coyote Coffee
April 15 at Wild Detectives