When I walked into Alex’s Bread & Deli, the Glebe’s sparkling new bakery and café, I was greeted with one of the warmest smiles I’ve seen in a long time. Norma Calzadilla was beaming with pride about the crusty loaves, fresh- baked muffins, and pastries created by her husband Alejandro (Alex). “Everything is made from scratch with good healthy seasonal products,” she says.
Norma tells me they ran a bakery in Venezuela for 10 years before moving to Halifax with their three children. When two of their kids ended up going to university in the capital, they decided to move to Ottawa. “We loved Halifax, but we decided to come with them,” she says. “We are a close family.”
Their son, a cellist, is in the music program at University of Ottawa, while their daughter studies psychology at Carleton. A second daughter is in Grade 11. The whole family helps out in the bakery, an elegantly simple space punctuated with one beautiful abstract painting. When I ask Norma about the eye-catching work of art, she flashes another proud smile — the artist is her father-in-law.
The menu so far is pretty standard, but I’m assured it is evolving: at lunchtime she serves sandwiches (roast beef, chickpeas, chicken salad, and grilled veggies), but the chalkboard menu from Saturday’s salad offerings reveals greater creativity: there’s a fennel, feta, and pomegranate salad, as well as arugula salad with figs and pecorino.
From the bakery I sampled a dark chocolate brownie, which was almost black in appearance. Biting into it, I found the chewy, moist treat was pleasantly, though surprisingly, salty rather than sweet. That same play on savouriness is found in the large golden corn muffin (a nod, perhaps, to Venezuelan cuisine where cornmeal dough is common), with its crunchy golden exterior and only slight hint of sweetness.
Then there’s the Landbrot, the large rustic round country loaf that is typical in Northern Germany. It is made with a combination of wheat and rye flour. The bread was still warm from the oven when I got it home and sliced it up for sandwiches. It had a great crusty exterior and soft, moist, almost cakey, interior with an earthy, slightly tangy flavour.
Alex’s has only been open two weeks, but Norma says they’ve already been embraced by the community. “We feel welcome here.”
Alex’s Bread & Deli, 873 Bank St., 613-421-7613.