Pausing after taking a sip of his gourmet coffee, Marc
Albanese reflects a little on the question. It’s a fairly typical
weekday morning at his Burlington café; the aroma of fresh brewed
coffee, today with hints of Old World Europe mixing with the inviting
fragrance of fresh-baked bread.
Pausing after taking a sip of his gourmet coffee, Marc Albanese reflects a little on the question. It’s a fairly typical weekday morning at his Burlington café; the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, today with hints of Old World Europe mixing with the inviting fragrance of fresh-baked bread.
The artisan bread-maker is adamant that there can be no shortcuts to flavour. And as his clientele are welcomed in to his upscale downtown eatery by the comforting smells, he knows he must deliver on the expectations that will surely arise.
“The one thing about taste, is once you get used to it, it’s tough to go back,” he says.
|Marc and Felicia Albanese have brought their success as artisan bread makers to the emerging trend of take ‘n’ bake pizza.|
Having gained a reputation for the city’s finest breads and downtown’s best sandwiches, Albanese is now applying those ideals to his line of gourmet take ’n’ bake pizzas.
Like many other bakers, Albanese has always had a passion for pizza. Prior to opening Pane Fresco, he was involved with a restaurant that offered pizza on the menu.
“We had a good a pie … I wanted to open something that had the same strengths.”
Now in its third year of business, Pane Fresco is founded on the strength of the artisan bread that Albanese and his staff produce each day, fresh and warm. He describes this as the “pull” for the clientele. The pizzas are the profit.
When pressed to offer up which is his best-seller, the baker pauses for just a moment.
“The traditional New Yorker … and the number two would be the Mediterraneo, a pizza bianco with oven roasted vegetables, goat cheese and sundried tomato drizzle.”
Some of the other offerings include another pizza bianco, the Funghi, finished with white truffle oil. The pies are available for the eat-in clientele, but it’s the take ’n’ bake concept that is proving to be a winner for Albanese, and his wife Felicia.
“We have developed streams of revenue to generate traffic all day,” he explains.
And the dough from which the pizza is made is the same dough used in some of his breads.
“The dough is 50 per cent of the equation,” Albanese says as he pulls a piece from an already baked pie. Using a pre-fermentation process to make the dough – which is the same dough as his Calabrese breads – adds a new complexity to the pizza crusts in terms of flavour and freshness.
“The chains can’t do this,” he says. “Our goal here is to give our customers the best product. We find the better cheese, the fresher toppings.”
And it’s definitely not about matching this week’s special with a 2L bottle of soda.
“People come here because we are unique … because we have a ‘boutiqueness’ about us.”
The clientele in his neighbourhood are typically well-travelled urban professionals. They have a taste for all things nice – and demands to match.
“They understand that quality will cost a little more … and they appreciate it.”
One of the other strengths that Albanese suggests is also that when the customer walks into Pane Fresco, they are stepping into the theatrical world of an artisan bakery.
“We showcase the craft, not the machinery. It’s a different touch … the aromas, the sites.”
As Albanese is reflecting on the visual element, he is momentarily interrupted by one of the young women that work in his shop. These are obviously not the same kind of staffers one would find at the corner franchise. Dressed in chef whites, she tells Albanese when she will be back to work, bids him adieu and heads off for her afternoon class at George Brown College’s culinary arts school.
Teaching the craft, Albanese says, is important to him. And he looks for employees who have that passion
“It gives me energy,” he says, returning to the conversation.
“We are family here. But we have a professional look and feel. You have to have that to compete. Quality
The pursuit of quality in his products has meant a substantial amount of research, trial and error. “I view my shop as a laboratory,” he says.
“With flour, I learned a lot at the San Francisco Baking Institute. In Canada, we have a high protein content in our flours. But for the artisan baker, they are too strong.”
Albanese went to work and eventually found flour with a protein percentage of approximately 10.5. “It’s great for what I do. It was a lot of trial and error, but you’re looking for the right characteristics. Baking is very precise. If you stick to the rules, you’ll have success.”•
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