Baker Ed Bozzo

photo by Giulio Muratori

by JULIA MASTROIANNI

SanRemo Bakery in Etobicoke, Ontario, has once again topped Panoram Italia readers’ poll for best bakery in Toronto. “It means a lot to us because we put our blood, sweat and tears into this business,” says co-owner and head baker Ed Bozzo.

The bakery has been a part of the 45-year-old’s life since he was born. His father Natale, who emigrated from Carolei, Cosenza, Calabria as a child, started the business 50 years ago with his brothers and father.

Bozzo remembers growing up with his parents constantly working at the shop, where his mother also served as a cake decorator. His dad worked six days a week, waking up early in the morning to bake everything fresh. “Monday was his only day off, so he would bring us to all our doctors’ appointments then,” Bozzo remembers. “Every appointment we’d go to, he would be in the waiting room sleeping. He would fall asleep exhausted.”

Bozzo and his two brothers, Rob and Nick, learned from a young age how taxing the baking business was, so much so that the three of them almost decided to pursue other careers. But when their father considered selling the business 25 years ago, Bozzo and his brothers banded together to take over the shop. “We couldn’t bare the thought of selling the business that my father had worked so hard to build. It felt like the right thing to do.”

It’s a decision Bozzo hasn’t regretted. “The fact that it’s our business and we can do what we want, how we want it, is a beautiful thing. One day a customer asked me if we make pistachio croissants, and I told him that starting tomorrow we do. The freedom we have to speak to our customers and try to create whatever we want is an aspect I enjoy very much.”

photo by Giulio Muratori

And in keeping with the family tradition, Bozzo’s three daughters work at SanRemo Bakery part time. “I think it’s important that they learn valuable life skills and how to be responsible, but they know that school always comes first,” he says. “I want them to seek their full potential, whatever that may be! It turns out my passion was baking, so we’ll see where their passions lead them.”

This passion is evident when Bozzo, who took a three-year baking course at George Brown College, talks about his work. “Baking is a chemistry. It’s a very delicate process. You see what mixes well together and what doesn’t. Sometimes you create something unbelievable by mixing things together. Sometimes I look at ingredient lists, but I mostly bake by touch and feel. I also love adding ingredients that no one would ever think would mesh well; it’s really fun to play with.”

Mixing that type of creativity and know-how with a strong family legacy has led to huge success judging by the crowds of customers who visit each day. “The bakery is built on Italian goods,” says Bozzo, pointing out that its veal sandwiches and homemade bread are big hits. For those with a sweet tooth, donuts, apple fritters, cannoli and Italian rum cake are bestsellers. “I’m a strong believer that you are where you’re at because of the things you do, right? We still stick by our old-school recipes and we do everything by hand,” Bozzo explains.

That commitment has him heading to work long before the sun is up every morning to get the bakery started, even spending his days off there. Surrounded by sweets every day, Bozzo says they don’t tempt him anymore. “It’s gotten to the point where you just get tired of it.” Now, he’ll usually make his own lunch on the grill in the back, or bring something from home.

From resisting the devilishly delicious treats surrounding him daily, to the delicate balancing act of maintaining a stable home and work life, Bozzo’s discipline has kept both him and the bakery going strong. “I think through all the hardships I can say that I’m in a good place. I’m happy that we are where we are,” Bozzo says. “Running a family business is difficult, but it’s rewarding at the same time.”