The bakery that has restored true Italian bread making

Five years ago I was diagnosed with an allergy to wheat: this was heartbreaking news. In a very short amount of time I had to re-train my brain to overlook the yeasty, crusty temptation, and seek guilty starchy pleasures in other forms; needless to say it took its toll. How ridiculous! – you might say. Take bread away from an Italian, however, and the situation gets serious.

Bread: it has nourished generations and civilisations for many thousands of years. I’ve come to appreciate, however, that there’s ‘bread’ and then there’s ‘bread’. Bread is ingrained (no pun intended) in the Italian food psyche. Bread is on the table at meals – it’s sweet, it’s savoury, it’s sliced, it’s broken… and even deep-fried. Bread, even old bread, is cherished and never wasted. It truly is a representation of what the Italians call la convivialità, togetherness. Like an old friend, bread is always there.

For those not familiar with the term ‘artisan’ or artigiano, it means using traditional methods, by way of ingredients and technique, to achieve a product of exceptional quality. Standing as a beacon of hope in today’s society, a society which is concerned with mass production and commercial enterprise, is a bakery of a different kind: Pane e Pizzico, in Essendon. On the counter sits a large glass urn: ‘Il Madre Lievito di Pane e Pizzico’ the sign reads. Contained within is forty year-old mother yeast, or ‘starter’. Like a member of the family it is fed daily, nurtured and treasured, on display for the world to see. This urn represents the attention to detail and care paid to the products made within this bakery.

Making artisanal quality bread is a lengthy 3-day process. The bakers start at 10pm, working through the night. They prepare what’s known as the ‘biga’, which starts the pre-fermentation process and ensures nutritional value of the final product. The following day the flour blends are added, the dough is kneaded to perfection and then left to rest. On the third day the yeasty parcels are baked, ensuring quality bread that speaks for itself.

What sets Pane e Pizzico apart from other bakeries is its heart and soul. The business is community oriented, supporting and supplying local businesses and chains with delicious breads and baked goods of the highest quality. Simone, the Floor Manager, assures me the focus is on quality, not quantity. “The bread in Melbourne is usually French and Vietnamese, but ours is very Italian,” he assures me. The difference comes down to the ingredients. Pane e Pizzico use very little to no butter in their dough and pastry, which respects traditional Italian flavours and baking techniques. Similarly, they use a blend of 60% imported Italian flour, 30% Australian flour and 10% imported German flour. “We are very happy and very proud of what we’re doing; it’s something very unique in Melbourne.”

Born from descendants of the Angele family who brought us the Brunetti Cafe, Pane e Pizzico is intimately Italian. “Everyone speaks Italian. There’s Italian music. Everyone is greeted with ‘Buongiorno!’ It’s something unique. People really love this kind of atmosphere. Some people come here just to read the paper, that’s the most rewarding thing.” It doesn’t stop there, boasts Simone, as the bakers are either Italian born, or are of Italian heritage. “We are a big family, we are all Italian,” he laughs. Testament to their success, Pane e Pizzico clearly has the right balance in check.

So, what is the winning ticket that people come through the door for? Despite the Italian banter and cheeky spirit, it’s the ‘pane della salute’ – the healthy bread. “The flavour, smell, and consistency are very special,” Simone explains. “It’s rich in protein and low in carbs. It’s a very unique product.” Worthy of attention is the panettone produced by Pane e Pizzico, made following traditional recipes and techniques. “Our artisan pasticceri take three days from start to end to produce our panettone, using all the patience in the world, with love and respect for the product”, says Managing Director, Robert Angele. “The panettone for Pane e Pizzico is not just another cake; it’s a symbol of our Italian heritage, as our own skilled bakers continue the traditions of the Italian master bakers of the past!”

In a market of frozen, imported and mass produced products, isn’t it heart-warming to know that gems like Pane e Pizzico still churn out the goods in a way that respects time honoured traditions? Bread will continue to grace the tables of many generations to come… made the artigiano way, with a pizzico (pinch) of Italian heart.