Saint-Léonard bakeries such as Pâtisserie Firenze offer pastries to die for
Saint-Léonard is surprisingly accessible by two wheels, thanks to the mostly smooth Saint-Zotique bike path. And it being time for a bakery crawl, how better to stave off sluggishness from eating too much whipped cream than by hopping on my rusty steed?
My partner in cannoli capers and I started at Firenze, keen on their recommended lobster tails, those curved cones of flaky pastry filled with cream. The server suggested the cannoli too, so we clutched our paper bags and went outside to inelegantly sit on the strip-mall curb to enjoy our goods. The lobster tail pastry was perhaps too sturdy, but the filling was a gorgeously smooth and lemony blend of custard and cream. And the ricotta filling of the cannoli was almost buttery yet still tangy, with a hint of candied orange, while the crisp pastry tube broke tidily into minute shards with each bite. Truly splendid.
We dusted off the icing sugar and rode on to Alati, the most renowned of Saint-Léonard’s bakeries. Here you can order a wedding cake and bombonieri, buy chocolates or sit at inviting round tables in a pleasant room and enjoy a decent espresso with your pastry. But Alati’s cannoli filling was slightly grainy and one-dimensional. The lobster tail had more of a carapace than a pastry shell, my pal noted, and was filled with too-sweet custard. Better to have chewy sweet almond amaretti cookies, or go savoury with a pizza (my companion happily took home a black olive and curly endive one).
Onward to Dolce Vita, north of the Metropolitan, past the pretty grey stone Saint-Léonard church. This is more of a neighbourhood café, homey, with sandwiches made to order and a pen in which to plunk babies. The owner’s husband is German, and although they had pretty good cannoli and lobster tails, their soft, Bavarian-style pretzels are popular enough to have sold out by the time we arrived. Too bad, but I was very happy with the jam-filled butter cookies, fresh and reminiscent of shortbread. And cookies that folded over like tacos around a date filling had a brown-sugar taste and mouthfeel.
Full of sweet stuff and warm feelings about a month exploring Saint-Léonard, my pastrymate and I groaned, mounted our beasts and trundled homewards.
Pâtisserie Firenze, 5961 Belanger St., 514-259-9008
Pâtisserie Alati, 5265 Jean-Talon St. E., 514-729-2891
Dolce Vita, 5670 Jarry St. E., 514-328-1845, www.dolcevitabakery.ca