December 15, 2021

North Beach’s Antonio’s Pastries: A Little Something Extra For The Holidays

by Joe Bonadio

When Toscano Brothers Bakery opened on Vallejo Street this May Day, it was something of a game-changer for North Beachers. After all, our neighborhood hadn’t had a real sourdough breadmaker since the closing of beloved 100-year old Italian French Bakery way back in 2015. And as things turned out, not even Tony was prepared for all that pent-up demand. Lines stretched around the block on the first day of service, the press came out of the woodwork–and our little neighborhood bakery was off to the races.

That was just the beginning, however: in July, ace pastry chef Lisa Lu joined the team for its next phase. Working in collaboration with Tony, Lu created a unique selection of authentic Italian sweets, including a proper budino (a decadent butterscotch pudding made with butter, scotch whiskey and high-molasses brown sugar) and a sfogliatelle to rival the best in the city. Taking its place beside Toscano Brothers and Dago Bagel, Antonio’s Pastries had been born.

Of course, the holidays are prime time for sweet stuff, and Antonio’s has got some surprises in store for its customers this Christmas. For the details, I sat down for a quick chat with bakery manager Rustle Brethauer earlier this week– and our conversation is below.

Joe Bonadio: So Rustle, it’s now been just over seven months since you guys opened the bakery.

Rustle Brethauer: It has been amazing. We’ve had some really big holidays during that time; we’ve had the Fourth of July, Columbus Day, and just recently Thanksgiving.

Being open on Thanksgiving Day was kind of a blessing to the neighborhood, I think. There were so many people that came out–everybody wanted fresh bread for dinner. It was great.

JB: It really was. This was the first Thanksgiving in years people could do that in this neighborhood.

Cucidati Christmas cookie at Antonio's Pastries

The cucidati Christmas cookie at Antonio’s Pastries, made with figs, currants, dates and walnuts. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

RB: And we were so happy to supply it!

JB: And now Christmas looms….

RB: Christmas looms! And we’ve got some great things in the works. We have new pastries available: first we’ve got the cucidati cookie, which is the Sicilian fig Christmas cookie (Editor’s Note: cucidati means “little bracelet” in Sicilian).

Ours features figs, currants, dates, walnuts, and a little bit of chocolate….it’s fantastic. Lisa really hit it home with that one.

JB: Is that from an old family recipe of Tony’s?

RB: It’s not Tony’s, it actually started from his wife’s mother’s recipe. Julie is the Sicilian in the family. Lisa took that as a starting point, and that’s what she came up with.

JB: What else is new?

RB: Being that berries went out of season and Meyer lemons came in, we also switched our seasonal tart to a lemon tart. And those have been really, really popular.

On the weekends, we’re doing pumpernickel now.

Antonio’s seasonal lemon tart: almost too pretty to eat. | Photo: Toscano Brothers

JB: Ooh, I love pumpernickel.

RB: That has been even more popular than I thought it would be.

JB: Pumpernickel bread?

RB: Pumpernickel rye bread, and pumpernickel bagels.

JB: Excellent!

RB: And just this past week, my baker blessed us with ciabatta.

JB: Ciabatta–for the first time?

RB: This is your sandwich bread right here.

JB: Wow. I might just leave here with some of that. Anything else you want to mention?

RB: You know, another thing I’m becoming known for is different kinds of cream cheese. I’ve been trying to feature a new kind of cream cheese every month: right now we’ve got pumpkin spice and cranberry orange. The cranberry orange is actually my cranberry sauce recipe, and I just incorporated it.

I’m open to suggestions, and I’m always ready to whip up a new batch.

JB: Have you done a jalapeño one yet?

RB: No, but I did one with Calabrian chili and honey.

JB: Ooh, I heard something about that.

RB: Sweet and spicy, it’s really good. So yeah, we’ve got a lot of new choices– what do we have now, twelve different flavors of bagels? I’m super happy about that.

Toscano Brothers Bakery, Antonio’s Pastries and Dago Bagel are open every Thursday through Sunday from 8:00 AM–3:00 PM, or until the bread sells out. Happy Holidays!

Toscano Brothers Bakery/Antonio’s Pastries
728 Vallejo Street
San Francisco, CA 94133