Con Pane Rustic Breads & Cafe1110 Rosecrans St.Suite 100, Point Loma619-224-4344
The air smells sweetest in the mornings at Con Pane, when its rightly renowned cinnamon rolls have just emerged from the oven, swirled with spice and baked with or without raisins. These puffy spirals are made from tender, buttery brioche dough and glazed in a homemade cream cheese frosting that's rich and decadent but not nearly as sugary as I'd feared. I'm not usually tempted by breakfast pastries, but the promise of one of these rolls before work gets me up the morning. Good coffee is motivation, too, and Con Pane uses some of the best beans in San Diego, from North Park roaster Caffe Calabria. The bakery puts its own spin on a latté by adding homemade butterscotch to sweeten it, but I prefer a black Americano to balance my sweet morning treat.
At lunchtime, the sugary aromas give way to savory scents, as a line forms to order giant sandwiches made between two thick slices of Con Pane's breads, kneaded into existence by bakers who seemingly work day and night. Their daily breads include a Raisin and Hazelnut that's almost equal parts dough, fruit and nuts; a Kalamata Olive loaf; and an Epi—a baguette shaped like a stalk of wheat that breaks into individual portions. The Point Loma Sourdough is soft and springy, with a crisp crust that helps to contain all the components of the Turkey Cobb, including roasted turkey breast, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, gorgonzola, Romaine lettuce and house-roasted Roma tomatoes. Healthy Multi-Grain bread, flecked with whole oats and flax, sunflower and sesame seeds, is a good foundation for the Veggie Cobb, minus the turkey and bacon but no less flavorful. And as long as I'm getting my vegetables in, I see no reason to skip dessert—either a brioche twist filled with chopped roasted hazelnuts and Belgian chocolate or a chewy cookie packed with chocolate chunks and walnuts. The Almost Grilled Cheese, oven-toasted slices of Rosemary Olive Oil bread sandwiching melted gorgonzola and triple cream brie, is almost perfect; if only Con Pane served tomato soup alongside for dipping.
Since nothing here is baked with preservatives, these breads must be eaten immediately, or at least that's the rationale I use as I polish off a loaf. The French baguettes, also served at Point Loma restaurants The Pearl and Roseville, are so popular that the daily supply in the bakery is often sold out by the late morning. Starlite, another supporter of local artisans, uses Con Pane's country bread, or Pain au Levain, for its nightly bruschetta creation (on a recent visit, the grilled slices were topped with warm apples and pork belly).
Weekly specialty breads offer incentive to make multiple stops at the bakery. Tuesdays are Cranberry Orange Walnut loaves, great as toast for breakfast. Delicious when eaten out of hand or used as sandwich bread, Thursday's Gruyere and Chive bread has bits of nutty, melted cheese throughout. On Fridays, I swing by to pick up an eggy braid of Challah to be turned into lazy Sunday morning French toast. And Saturday's Pane Cioccolata is a round, sweet loaf flavored with vanilla, honey and cocoa powder, marbled with pockets of still-creamy milk chocolate. You can taste a variety of these breads on the Sweet Bread Baker's Plate, which includes three gargantuan slices of fresh bread plus butter, raspberry preserves and cream cheese. A savory version of the plate comes with housemade basil pesto, goat cheese and olive oil.
There's a neighborly, casual feel to the bakery—regulars are greeted by name, and it's a cash-only, bus-your-own-plate kind of place. And on occasions when bread goes unsold, the remainders are sent to local charities. These are people passionate about old-world bread-making traditions and, obviously, firmly in the pro-carbohydrate camp. The back of Con Pane's T-shirts, worn by employees, read “Eat More Bread.” Words to live by—if not daily, then often.