Agincourt Bakery is the epitome of the old-school Italian bakery. In a little strip mall on Pharmacy just north of Finch, I hear nothing but Italian when I first walk in the door. Staff (who I later learn are basically all related to the owners somehow) buzz busily behind the counter, wrapping Christmas cookies and tying ribbons around gift baskets.
The little bakery, which actually has a pretty substantial seating area around the corner from its hot table, is plush with holiday goodies by its front entrance. There's Santa's face iced on cookies and plenty of red and green in sprinkle form, though I've come not simply for Agincourt's festive delights. The bakery is known in the area as one for authentic Italian eats, and I'm lured in by the delicious scent of fresh pizza wafting from the front door.
Agincourt Bakery is a true mom & pop that has been around for almost 30 years. Dora Romagnuolo, who opened the bakery with her husband, Tony, takes a moment to wipe her hands, then leans of the counter as we take a few minutes to chat.
"We just love baking," she says to me in a thick Italian accent. Dora totally has that "nonna" vibe, gushing about making her favourite foods and calling me "dear" within moments of meeting. "These are all my recipes," she says. "A lot I've learned from back home."
The bakery has a full spread of cookies, cakes, and pastries, including a generous assortment of almond cookies ($2.99/100g) and specialties such as mini tiramisu cheesecakes ($1.99). The shop's regulars--some of whom, according to Dora, come by three or four times a week--stop first at the hot table to pick up dinner, deciding between fresh tortellini ($5.99), cabbage rolls ($5.99), panzerotti ($2.99), and more. The veal sandwich ($4.75) is one offering for which Agincourt is particularly known, smothered in homemade sauce and almost big enough for two.
On that note, the bakery is more of a mini-market than simply a place to pick up bread, with a gelato counter (which is in hibernation for the winter), espresso bar, deli counter, olive bar, and various grocery items. Since veal has never really been my thing, I opt for Agincourt's other famous offering: its ricotta cannoli ($1.75). I take it with me, saving it for home when I can eat it at leisure, but I'm slightly disappointed with the consistency of the shell. Rather than a "crunch," I get more of a "chew," which tells me it either wasn't made that day, or the unusual humidity on the bus ride home did something mighty powerful to my dessert.
I know, however, had I still been at Agincourt, Dora would have whisked it out of my hands and prepared me something new. Likely standing over my shoulder and saying, "Eat! Eat!" as well. The filling, though, takes a fair stab at redemption, with a creamy, substantial texture and fresh ricotta taste. It's enough to convince me that on the day they're made, Agincourt's cannoli are likely something special.
Photos by John Papamarko