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Baked Goods

Forno Cultura

Posted by Sarah Ratchford / Posted on April 25, 2013

Forno Cultura TorontoForno Cultura is fresh goods on Toronto's baking scene. The Italian bakery opened two weeks ago at King and Bathurst in a warehouse-like space beneath WVRST. While the bakery has an uber-modern aesthetic, owner and creator Andrea Mastrandrea's business model is based on old family recipes going back generations.

Forno Cultura TorontoThe space has bare concrete floors, and the exposed piping is painted stark white. There's simple wooden shelving around the periphery of the bakery, and in front of a glass wall behind which the chefs make their magic. The shelving is stocked with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian peeled tomatoes, mineral waters, and tuna. If I were a nonna, it's where I would go to buy supplies to make dinner for my astronomical number of grandchildren.

Forno Cultura TorontoInterestingly, though, Mastrandrea's recipes are passed down from his father and his grandfather, not his grandmother. His family still operates Aida's Pine Valley Bakery in Woodbridge. Mastrandrea grew up in the family business, which used to be located at Weston and Rogers, but it wasn't his first career move as an adult. He's trained as an architect, and worked in that field for years, but at some point he started to miss the Italian food he and his friends grew up on.

"I realized it didn't exist anywhere. I was complaining with colleagues, and I thought, 'let's stop complaining and just do it.' It'll be a dying breed if we don't put it back on the market."

Forno Cultura TorontoThough the King and Bathurst location is new, Mastrandrea has been in business for a few years. He operated out of Alimento, and he's got a kitchen near Queen and Carlaw, too. But I have to say, I'm happy he's expanded. Mastrandrea is a true creative in the kitchen. As we chat over the front counter, he fills me in on his carbilicious inventions.

There's a tomatoey foccacia I can't stop eyeing, loaves of olive bread, a bazillion kinds of biscotti with ingredients like seeds, almonds, and chocolate, and so many other different kinds of bread: cornbread, sourdough, and loaves with spices and walnuts. Mastrandrea ensures me that everything he bakes is free of white flour and artificial flavouring. Instead, he uses ancient grains, organic flour and ingredients imported from Italy.

"I want people to say, 'This tastes like something my grandma made,'" he explains.

Forno Cultura TorontoAs he gives me the deets, Mastrandrea selects a series of delectable treats for me to try. He's invented the most incredible dessert-like item I've yet to discover. It is a fist-sized mini-cake with a chocolate base, but not too sweet at all. Inside, there are semi-sweet dark chocolate chunks and sundried black olives. The sweet and savory contrast is a definite worlds-colliding moment, but in the best way. It's like an especially fancy chocolate bar with sea salt, only a million times better.

Forno Cultura TorontoI take home a box of treats to my roommate, and tell her that the opportunity to sample them is contingent upon her prompt and amusing delivery of a review. She stuffs an almond cookie in her mouth and her eyes actually bug out. "Ooooohhhh......" she says, speechless, and keeps eating, ignoring my demands for further feedback. It's a rave review, if I've ever heard one.

Forno Cultura TorontoTo be honest, it's hard to find anything to scathingly critique when it comes to this place. It's one of the good ones. My one minor issue is that there's no seating. Forno serves coffee as well, and it would be nice to be able to sit down and relax with some coffee and a treat. They have the space for it, so hopefully they'll implement that in the future.

Forno Cultura TorontoMy other, more significant complaint is that this place is right next to my yoga studio, and I fear it will completely undo the effects of my classes in a matter of weeks. And just in time for summer.

Forno Cultura TorontoPhotos by Jimmy Lu

Discussion

15 Comments

Mike / April 25, 2013 at 02:36 pm
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Awesome place!!! Even though the owner has a funny accent he sure does know how to make great biscotti and delicious "fregna di mammeta".
Sally / April 25, 2013 at 03:35 pm
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Looks like all the spoiled woodbridge kids are moving to condos at king Bathurst . Using mommy and daddy's money of course
Francesco / April 25, 2013 at 03:38 pm
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As an Italian that grew up at bakeries like this, I'm extremely excited that I can find an authentic bakery like this south of st.clair
Cindy Luong / April 25, 2013 at 03:44 pm
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I know it's the wrong season but I'll be so grateful if they make chiacchiere! Definitely checking this place out!
giuseppe / April 25, 2013 at 05:41 pm
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I guess I'm just more lukewarm than others on the offerings here. I'm of Italian descent myself. While the soft amaretti were delicious, the biscotti were ok, but not earth-shattering. The cookies pictured at the very top of this page (the angel-wings), although pretty to look at, were practically inedible -- hard instead of delicate and flakey.

NativeOfToronto / April 26, 2013 at 11:36 am
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What do you expect? Those 905 cities including Vaughan and Woodbridge are nothing but houses and sprawl! No BIA city planning, and most of all, no jobs! No balance in their planning. However to be fair, there is and will always be a strong Italian link in downtown Toronto, which they take pride in. This keeps them coming back.
Dan / April 26, 2013 at 06:49 pm
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Took some olive bread home to the family and they loved it. Had an excellent espresso too. Will be back to try the desserts.
Sounds like Sally's parents don't love her and was kicked out of the house at 18.
Sally has several cold sores (each from a different hobo) / April 27, 2013 at 10:43 am
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I stopped in last night just before closing and talked to two super-nice staffers. It's obvious they're passionate about this, so I'm crossing my fingers that they can make a go of it because this area ain't kind to food businesses.

I bought one of everything that looked good, and I'd say overall I'd give them a 9/10. Two cookies were only 'okay', (one was weirdly flavorless...like completely devoid of any noticeable taste), but the rest I absolutely LOVED. Not everything was out because it was almost closing time, but I'll go back again with someone else and taste-test a bunch of stuff because everything looks lovely.

Place could use some seats...maybe a really long bench in the middle? Or communal table? Or keeping with the Italian theme, maybe a few back-to-back pews?

Good luck!
Dickweed replying to a comment from Sally / May 1, 2013 at 03:22 pm
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I've lived/worked in this area for 6 years. I haven't met a single person from Woodbridge. Fuck off troll.
Lisa / May 11, 2013 at 11:41 pm
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When I tried their breads and cookies they were just opened. I must say, I was amazed with their big selection of savory and sweet goods as a new place. I don't even know the names of some cookies, but they were all very tasty and on top of that, I was pleasantly surprised that after a week they were still fresh in the fridge. Since I am not that close to their location I bought quite a few things and kept them the my fridge. One item really stood out of all and that was their Focaccia bread which was to die for! I have never had a tastier one in my life. Every artisan bread and cookie maker has long years of culinary experience I was told and boy, does it show!

Overall, this place is a new fresh, but authentic Italian bakery with excellent friendly service that we all want in our neighborhood. I wish I had a Forno Cultura near by.
Dagmara / July 6, 2013 at 11:47 am
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LOVE! I went in last night for the first time, got some biscotti and breadcrumbs (organic ;) and was just blown away with how friendly and generous Andrea (the owner?) was. My husband, who's Italian, LOVED the baked goods: bread, biscotti, cookies, bread-sticks.... I am going back today for some more. Great place.
Matt / August 9, 2013 at 07:52 pm
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Read the positive review in NOW and it certainly lived up to expectations. Try their pizza!
Noah / January 10, 2014 at 05:44 pm
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Their sandwiches are the best in the city and at least on par with NYC's Eataly and Olives.
Zi / July 2, 2014 at 08:43 pm
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We bought cookies yesterday and they were delicious. We will definitely come back for more of the pistachio cookies, chocolate and hazelnut, and the semolina and current.
Kelly / September 2, 2014 at 10:46 am
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Everything is terrific here, especially the sandwiches. And I nearly cried when I first tasted their cookies. Just like Sicily!

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