By Michelle Brisebois
By Michelle Brisebois
On the subject of destiny, Douglas Adams once wrote “I seldom end up
where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.”
Joseph Montinaro fashions a destiny in food with West Finch Bakery and the new Dolcini By Joseph
|Fig mousse bomb with fig reduction and roasted almonds.
Photography By Luca Viorel, YOURADONLINE.com
On the subject of destiny, Douglas Adams once wrote “I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.”
For Joseph Montinaro, following in his father’s footsteps into the baking industry didn’t initially seem to be his path. As sometimes happens, his path instead eventually found him. From a career in menswear to culinary artisan, Joseph Montinaro is proving that regardless of the latest food trends or economic storm clouds, beautiful baked goods are always in demand.
Joseph Montinaro’s father started West Finch Bakery in the late 1960s and the young Montinaro spent much of his formative years working in the business. For many kids, it would seem to be a foregone conclusion that he would follow in his dad’s footsteps.
“Not at all,” he says. “I initially started off in the early ’90s
working in the clothing industry. I had helped him with the business
here and there but really wasn’t sure it was my path. When dad retired
in 1999, I took over the business, which was focused on traditional
Italian baking. We moved to a new location and considered specializing
in the wholesale side of the business but I was a bit bored with the
old style of baking.”
This urge to branch off into a new direction eventually prompted
Montinaro to shake up the status quo by immersing himself in a
“It was a trip to Italy in 2001 that really sparked a creative
renaissance for me,” he says. “I spent some time there working with
chefs, soaking up as much of the culture and their approach to baking
as I could. I realized that the chefs and bakers in Italy were really
vested in not only making a high-quality product but also in the design
aspect of the pastries. The trip initiated a creative passion in me –
suddenly things started clicking into place and I knew which direction
I wanted to take my business. Suddenly, it was no longer for me about
showing customers a book of wedding cake prototypes – it was more about
creating something unique, inspired by perhaps the flowers or the lace
on the bodice of the wedding gown. I started to really listen to how my
baked goods could become a part of the creative expression in people’s
Montinaro’s reputation for European style artisan baked goods continued
to grow as did his creative expression. This hunger to take the
European bakery concept to the next level eventually prompted him to
open a second location – one that was truly his brainchild from the
ground up. Dolcini By Joseph opened last year in Kleinburg, Ont.
“I wanted to showcase the baked goods as artistic expressions,”
Montinaro says. “From the time we opened at the beginning of July in
2007, we wanted the bakery to offer that small indulgence created in
the European style. We have an outside deck, it’s small and quaint, a
romantic pastry shop.”
For those doubters who think that such a concept would target a small,
upscale niche market, Joseph Montinaro offers the following insight:
“We see people from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The
common denominator is that they’re ‘foodies.’ People who really love
good food seek us out. What’s particularly exciting to see is a number
of parents bringing their children in to our bakery to introduce them
to quality baked goods. This is the next generation of consumers and
now that they’ve grown up appreciating artisan products, it’s likely
they’ll continue to be a strong segment for bakeries in the future.”
The short-term future for small businesses is a hot topic these days.
Indications are that we’re in the early stages of a deep, long economic
recession and many businesses are retooling their lines towards a more
“value-based” slant. We asked Montinaro if he was concerned that
upscale baked goods may get cut from consumer budgets.
“For most people, there’s always room in the budget for a small
indulgence. People may pass on the two- or three-hundred-dollar meal
but in its place have a nice dessert and a premium cup of coffee. They
get all of the romance without the price tag. We’ve found that word of
mouth has been very effective for us, and even though we’re located in
Kleinburg, we’re in a neighbourhood populated by art galleries. The
area naturally attracts people who love art so our bakery experience
tends to appeal to that psychographic group. Lots of people crave that
small town feel – it reminds them of a simpler, more relaxed time.”
Montinaro also sees a couple of industry trends worth a bit more attention.
“Lots of my customers want to give baked goods as a gift so we’ve made
sure to have packaging that allows it to be beautifully presented.
We’re also getting more requests for smaller portions. Many customers
want 1.5-ounce or two-bite pastries.”
Joseph Montinaro was planning to head back to Italy in early 2009 to
work with various chefs again, and Irinox s.p.a. in Italy was set to
have him doing demos this year in the Rimini sigep show from Jan. 17 to
“I find that immersing myself into a different culture really helps to
re-energize my creativity. I soak up the knowledge of the chefs I work
with and think of ways to interpret these ideas in my business. I’m
also getting a Canadian team together for the Gelato Cup for 2010,” he
For Joseph Montinaro, it’s really about a point of difference that’s
embedded in the experience. “So much of the larger industry focuses on
quantity over quality. Instead, I believe it’s really all about making
those two bites absolutely memorable.” / BJ
Dolcini by Joseph is located at 10462 Islington Ave. #3, Kleinburg, Ont., or www.dolcini.ca.
|Joseph Montinaro and his wife, Maria, who helps him run West Finch Bakery and Dolcini by Joseph.
| Amaretto and dark chocolate surprise.