Meet the Producers: Calgary Italian Bakery

August 29, 2017

Bread is one of humanity’s most basic foods. Easily made and stored, highly portable, and both filling and satisfying, it’s no surprise that bread’s origins date back to early humans, and that it’s stuck around for eons.

“It's the fact that you're providing one of the core things to life,” says Louis Bontorin, the Vice President of Sales and Administration at the Calgary Italian Bakery. “I mean when people talk about basic, you're talking greens, you're talking wheat, you're talking bread. It's one of those staples that have been around since biblical times. Breaking bread brings people together; it's that whole philosophy of togetherness.” 

Calgary Italian Bakery products are one of the locally made products now available at Calgary and area Co-op stores. Unlike some bread, it’s on the shelves within hours of coming out of the oven, meaning picking up Calgary Italian Bakery goods from your neighbourhood Co-op is like visiting a local bakery. Being a local company with deep roots in the city is a point of pride for Bontorin.

Local Roots

“My parents started the company in 1962. We use local ingredients, we use local staff, we use local economics. So it's about the fact that we are local. We try to spend money where we live, and that's what Calgary Co-op is about too. We live in these communities, so you want to be part of these communities.”

Calgary Italian Bakery bakes white and brown bread for Calgary Co-op, as well as hamburger and hot dog buns. A new product that’s arrived on shelves for BBQ season is a special collaboration with Village Brewery. 

village beer bunBeer Buns Perfect for Grilling 

The Calgary Italian Bakery Village Beer Bun is made with spent grains used by the brewery that would otherwise be discarded. The grains become a partial replacement for some of the flour. Some of the beer — Village’s popular Blacksmith — is also added to the mix.

“I think the cool thing about the Village Beer Bun is the fact that it has this nutty taste based on the Blacksmith Beer,” explains Bontorin. “Through the process and the fermentation process of dough, all the yeast and alcohol is burnt off. So what you're left with is that nuttiness of the beer; all the flavour, with no alcohol content.” 

The buns are perfect for burgers and grilled meats and several local restaurants have also added them to the menu.

The Calgary Italian Bakery Village Beer Bun is just one example of how the bakery uses natural ingredients and local partnerships whenever possible in its products. Here, all the baking is done from scratch. There are no mixes, and no frozen par-baked starters.

“Scratch means you're back to the basic ingredients. You're back to flour, water, salt, sugar. We're not taking a bag and dumping it into a mixer and adding water.”  

Calgary Italian Bakery is also unique in western Canada, as one of just two producers of English Muffins. If you’re buying English Muffins, chances are it originated at Calgary Italian Bakery’s northeast Calgary location.

Being a local baker with decades of experience in the city is important to Calgary Italian Bakery. For Bontorin, it’s about cultivating and building relationships with Calgary suppliers and Calgary customers. And at this bakery, it’s still all in the family, as it has been for decades, ever since Bontorin and his brother visited their dad here, and spent hours playing among the sacks of flour and sugar.

“My brother is here every day, I'm here every day, my dad still comes in. He's 87 and he still comes in every day just to see what's going on.”

 - Erin

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