Do you dream of taking pastry or cake decorating classes but don’t have the time? Or would you like to be a fly on the wall to watch as artisanal breads are baked to perfection?
It’s easy enough at SoNo Baking Company, 101 South Water St. in Norwalk—the brick-faced, converted warehouse where celebrity baker John Barricelli oversees the daily production of hundreds of exquisite cakes, pastries and loaves of bread for sale at the café as well as area restaurants.
Just find yourself a stool at one of the big windows facing the bright open white-tiled kitchen and you can watch master pastry chefs and bread bakers apply their magical techniques before your very eyes, even as you’re sampling some of the sweet and savory delectibles baked fresh daily.
Watch as the giant deck oven imported from Italy releases blasts of steam to create crusty bread exteriors and moist interiors and marvel as bakers maneuver 10-foot-long paddles to arrange the baking brioches, baguettes, ciabattas, multigrains, rye, sunflower and signature SoNo sourdough breads.
Stare in wonder at the delicate touches applied by pastry artists to create elegant fruit tarts, cakes and mousses, not to mention fruited Linzer bars, coconut macaroons and SoNo brownies, a specialty of the house.
Barricelli is living out a dream inspired by his great grandfather Guiseppe, a turn-of-the-century immigrant from Italy who established a bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn selling Neapolitan pizzas and desserts.
One of seven sons, Barricelli was seized by the cooking bug in his teens. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America and worked at some of New York’s top restaurants—the River Café, Four Seasons, Le Bernardin—before opening his own café in Brooklyn.
Martha Stewart discovered Barricelli when he was baking at The Elms in Ridgefield and he was soon running her TV studio kitchen in Westport. Before long, he was working at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and becoming a featured chef on Everyday Food. In 2008, he hosted the PBS spin-off, Everyday Baking.
Last year, he published The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook, with a foreward by an appreciative Martha Stewart, who calls Barricelli “a baker of great distinction whose cakes are as scrumptious as they are delicious.”
The cookbook contains 150 recipes and heaping servings of helpful hints Barricelli has developed over the years.
Apart from the elegant bakery offerings, the café serves breakfast and lunch daily and Sunday brunch with imaginative menus that change daily.
A breakfast omelet might have chorizo, sweet peppers and cheddar cheese ($8.75) and a lunch panini might have roasted pork with apricot jam, Swiss cheese and onions served with potato rosemary bread ($9.50).
Breads range from a $3 baguette ($3.50 if organic) to $5 for the challah baked every Friday.
Desserts viewed through refrigerated cases include the Tiramisu ($5.50), chocolate mousse towers $4.25 or a 6-inch cake-of-the-day ($30).
SoNo Baking Company is located at 101 South Water Street. Hours are Monday 7 – 3 (lunch until 2), Tuesday – Saturday 7 – 5 (lunch til 3), Sunday 7 – 4 (brunch til 2) Tel. 203-847-7666. www.SoNoBaking.com.