Sugar Loaf calls itself a "non-traditional artisanal bakery." This bright and inviting spot in Riverside that was previously home to furnishings shop Studio Pazo (which moved further west on Queen) is named after a natural landmark (Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain) in Rio de Janeiro as a nod to the owners' homeland. A picture of it hangs on the wall.
Originally from São Paulo, owners Rinaldo Angelicola and his wife Ana Melaragni have teamed together with pastry chef Hardy Sugiarto to create a European-style bakery infused with inventive new hybrids and flavours that are not only original, but tasty.
Baking has always been a passion for Melaragni (who previously worked in advertising as an account director for 15 years in São Paulo, which explains the bakery's great branding and design), so Angelicola turned his bakery idea that started out as an MBA project into reality, and now the couple gets to work together every day.
As they also live in this area and have kids themselves, they have thoughtfully designed the space with mothers and strollers in mind: there's an actual stroller parking area, and free tea for nursing moms.
A tempting display shows off an assortment of yummy-sounding-and-looking croissants (dulce de leche, double chocolate or guava, all $3.20 each), scones (Earl Grey, Caesar cocktail or cheese, all $3.15 each) and an interesting cookie-plus-brownie mash-up that's unfortunately named a "coonie" ($4 - might we suggest calling it a "brookie" instead?).
There are, of course, also a few straight-up Brazilian treats like brigadeiros ($2 each) - sweet, fudge-like balls of condensed milk, butter and cocoa - and pão de queijo ($4 for four), gluten-free cheese puffs that taste even better than the ones I had in Rio. Handcrafted chocolates and jars of house-made jam are available for purchase as well.
Although Sugar Loaf obviously isn't a gluten-free facility, it offers a few other (clearly marked) gluten-free options and also tries to be accommodating to vegetarians and vegans, with its soups and salads for lunch.
Caffeine-wise, there are espresso-based drinks (espresso, $2.85; Americano, $2.95/$3.20; cappuccino, $3.60; latte, $3.95) and brewed coffee ($2.25/$2.50) made using beans from Propeller Coffee , along with an assortment of teas ($2.75 each) from Pluck.
My friend and I try a few of the weekend brunch items. There's the Croque Madame ($12), three layers of toasted brioche with bechamel sauce, ham and Swiss topped with a sunny-side up egg. Sadly, the brioche proves to be a bit too dry and could use more sauce and a tad more of the bakery's inventiveness to punch up the flavours.
The mushroom and black truffle terrine ($14) is my personal fave. It's a toothsome house-made brioche pudding containing sauteed mushrooms, gruyere cheese, black truffle oil and thyme with a perfectly poached egg that's nice and runny perched on top, making for a sexy and satisfying dish.
All the mains are served with a salad of greens and house-made root chips that remind me of the bags of Terra chips they hand out on Porter flights. These ones prove to be equally addictive - they're a bit soft, but super flavourful.
For dessert, we split a Dutch baby ($10), an eggy, poufy pancake served in a cast-iron pan straight from the oven, topped with caramelized bananas and salted caramel sauce. You really can't go wrong with that combo.
Angelicola, Melaragni and Sugiarto already have plans to expand while continuing to use the large back kitchen here as a base for their operations. They hope to open four to five locations in four to five years, which can only be a good thing for the lucky neighbourhoods they choose for their next shops.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.