On Saturday I attended a wine tasting hosted by friends in Montclair, NJ. The usual couple baskets of bread were on the table as palate cleansers. But after a bite of a slice of a ciabatta-style loaf, I noticed that this was far from usual bread. Or at least not that Id experienced locally before.
Yeah, yeah, we San Franciscans can be snobby about our bakers and artisanal breads. Acmes ciabatta is my personal standard, followed closely by Il Fornaios. Everyone elses seems doomed to rubbery crust, overly dry crumb, and lack of flavor development. So, I was surprised to find a worthy contender here.
At the first bite the crust has a tender crispness that gives way to a firmer chewiness. The crumb is irregular in texture and airy yet suitably moist. The bread has more yeasty flavor development and a touch more salt. Later that evening I tried the ciabatta from Sullivan Bakery (purchased at Zabars) and still preferred Il Fornos.
My hostess was pleased that Id noticed the difference. She said that theyre lucky to have such a good local bakery within walking distance of home. After the tasting, we had some cookies from Il Forno for dessert (shown below). The pastry of the small turnovers was a little too tough. But the fresh apricot and raspberry preserve fillings were so good, I didnt care. The star though was the almond macaroon. Studded with pignoli, these had a perfect balance of almond flavor with sweetness, and chewy with crisp.
Massimo & AnneMarie Ranni, Proprietors
199 Bellevue Ave.
Upper Montclair, NJ
18 So. Fullerton Ave.