I love discovering or being recommended to small family owned and small independent businesses and supporting our home-grown local talents. One such, is by gifted baker, Katia Bruno in Toronto. Katia makes an unforgettable focaccia barese. Focaccia barese is an IGP designated food product from the city of Bari in Puglia, where her family lives. IGP is a protective trademark that is used to certify foods and agricultural products that base their quality, reputation and other important characteristic on the defined geographical area in which their production, processing and/or preparation can be traced back to it. It is something that Katia grew up eating weekly at her family’s table. It holds the kind of memory that connects her to her family, even when they are so far away. Years of watching her father make it prepared her to continue in the family tradition. She started to take this up in her teenage years when she began to take cooking as a career seriously.
Focaccia is a flat oven baked Italian bread, similar to pizza but fluffier. It has only a few basic ingredients such as flour, water, potatoes, yeast, salt, tomatoes, olives, oregano and olive oil, yet, if done properly, can taste even better than pizza. Necessary to make Katia’s focaccia so unbelievable, is uncompromised quality and of course a chef’s touch. She sources the highest quality ingredients, so her product is good enough to serve to her father or a focaccia master.
I asked her how she started in the business of making Toronto’s best focaccia, and it was only after having brought it to her friends and family over the years, that word of mouth spread (especially in the Barese people’s circle, which is a huge compliment). People started requesting orders, so she figured why not sell them. Her focaccia is a very specific, regional and authentic product. Now more people can find out about this incredible bread and believe me not all focaccias are created equal. You will understand this after your first bite.
Katia Bruno’s production is quite small. She works out of her home; she uses no machinery, and everything is done by hand. Eight kilos of dough at a time which only produces roughly 6-7 pans depending on their size. I’m talking small batch artisan work. She works full time in her kitchen, and spends her weekends making focaccia purely for enjoyment. Nothing fuels her passion like returning customers, especially Italians of her father’s generation. Continuing the tradition here in Toronto, brings the taste of Bari to the city. On a personal note, this summer is the first time in 30 years I can’t travel to Italy, so it brought pure joy and happiness to be able to enjoy her out of this world focaccia.
It’s not easy to buy one of these beautiful focaccia because Katia only has two hands and can only make so many per week. I had to get on a waitlist myself for several weeks to procure one, but boy was it worth the wait. Perfectly crunchy on the outside, dense yet fluffy on the inside, with the perfect charred tomatoes and seasoning on top. If you are interested in trying one, please lookout for ordering through her Instagram page, @katiamarybruno, on Thursdays at 8pm. Look out for highlights on her page on how to order your Sunday slice of heaven.
You’ll thank me later, and buon appetito!