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Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009

Canfora Bakery’s Sweet Aroma

Baked, deli delights in Bay View

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Walking over the threshold of a locally owned bakery satisfies the soul in a way that a trip to the bakery department of a big-box grocery store cannot. Whatever the reason—perhaps it’s the concentrated aroma of baked goods that only a tiny bake shop can generate, or maybe it’s nostalgia for an earlier time when shoppers had to visit four different specialty stores to stock their kitchen—a trip to your local bakery can be a nice exclamation point for your day. A family-owned and -operated business opened by Rosa and Carl Canfora in 1981, Canfora Bakery on Oklahoma Avenue in Bay View is a daily temptation for travelers using the busy South Side thoroughfare. They know that beneath the blue awnings and the Tower of Pisa sign, Canfora Bakery is going to have something they want.

The bakery’s main claim to fame is its unique wedding and specialty cakes, but the breads, cookies and pastries pulled from the Canfora ovens deserve just as much credit. The colorful contents of the bakery cases draw customers close: yellow jimmies sprinkled on dark chocolate, pink and green pistachio leaves, white powdered Florentine lace and bright maraschino cherries cooked into the center of a buttery golden cookie, to name just some of the dozens of types of cookies. In the next case, you’ll find big, sugary, jelly-filled donuts, chocolate-covered long johns and flaky turnovers. The shelves behind the counter are stocked with a variety of breads—loaves, rolls, baguettes and bread crumbs—baked fresh daily. Along with tiramisu and fresh dough, the refrigerated coolers have milk to go with all the sweets.

Just because it’s a bakery, don’t rule out Canfora’s deli case. Bright red dishes hold an assortment of the usual suspects: creamy coleslaw and potato salad, bowtie pasta, green olives mixed with Tuscan peppers and a robust octopus salad. Made with freshly baked sub rolls, Canfora’s subs are above and beyond the typical fare one can expect from chain sandwich shops. Service behind the counter is unrushed as customers build their subs from a variety of cheeses, meats, toppings and homemade dressings. The soup of the day is picked from a long list of more than a dozen Canfora favorites made from original family recipes, ranging from Italian wedding and ravioli tomato basil to Timberland bean chili and that reliable standby, chicken noodle soup. Each day offers a hearty hot lunch special, such as roast beef with gravy on a roll, boneless barbecue pork rib on a Kaiser or, if it’s a Saturday or Sunday, a pound of hot Badger baked ham with half a dozen free rolls.

If you need to stop at a store for some groceries, the supermarket is a one-stop shop with the convenience of ample parking and wide aisles—it gets the job done. But it doesn’t have the unique personality and charm of a neighborhood anchor like Canfora Bakery in Bay View, a cozy corner store where servers know customers by name and coffee is complimentary on Sundays.

414-486-7747/ 1100 E. Oklahoma Ave./ Hours: Tue. – Fri. 5:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. – 4 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. n