Calgary Italian Bakery’s Recipe for Success
Embracing family, friends and the community
Family. That’s the most prominent theme you’ll hear Louis Bontorin talk about as he reflects on the history of the Calgary Italian Bakery. As the Vice President of Sales and Administration and son of founder, Luigi Bontorin, the bakery has been a part of Louis’s memories since he was born.
Luigi and Myrl Bontorin opened the Calgary Italian Bakery in October of 1962, shortly after Louis was born. His Brother Dave and sister Teresina were born shortly after in 1963 and 1966. “As you can imagine, we sort of grew up in the bakery,” laughs Louis. “My mom used to have pictures of my brother Dave and I in bread boxes with my dad out doing deliveries.”
As Louis talks about the early days, he reminisces about playing in the bakery, climbing and hiding behind stacks of flour bags; but as soon as the kids were old enough to count, they started helping out. “Dave and I have both been involved in the bakery since the 1980s. Growing up, we all worked in the bakery because dad didn’t believe in just saying ‘here, you can run the business’. We washed walls, hand greased pans, mixed dough, and pretty much did every job possible at the bakery.”
As we talk about the importance of family, Louis mentions his father Luigi, who at 87 years old, still comes in to the bakery every day. “Family is important because he still has his office,” he jokes.
The family at the Calgary Italian Bakery isn’t just those related by birth. As Louis takes me through the list of employees at the bakery, he knows all of their names, how long they’ve been with the bakery, and the various roles they have played over the years. It’s clear that the Calgary Italian Bakery has become a huge part of the Calgary community, and as Louis tells me, his mom was always proud of the fact that she was born here.
Since beginning in 1962, the Calgary Italian Bakery has faced a variety of obstacles to bring their heritage into their products. In the 1960s Luigi tried to sell Italian products, but didn’t have the widespread market that we have now. “Over the past 10 years, people want to get more in-touch with that heritage. You’re seeing breads from all over the world and our taste has evolved,” explains Louis. “With Canada being a melting pot of different nationalities, we get exposed to so many different things. When you walk into a supermarket, the bread section has a lot more variety to offer.
“We’re blessed to be a business in Calgary and have been embraced by the community over the past 55 years,” says Louis as we talk about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. “We’re happy to be a part of that. Our bread is one of those things…the breaking of bread is sort of like the time when everyone comes together.”
“The neat thing about Thanksgiving is that a lot of families take extra time at the dinner table,” says Louis, as he compares the holiday to his Italian roots. “In Italy they have sit down meals and there is no rush. It’s an event. Thanksgiving is a chance to actually sit down and embrace family-time together.”
As for what you can expect Louis Bontorin to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, if it’s not the turkey itself, his favourite is his wife’s home-made pumpkin pie. From the Calgary Italian Bakery and Alberta Wheat families to yours, we hope you find time to spend with your family at the dinner table this Thanksgiving weekend.
Visit the Calgary Italian Bakery online at https://www.cibl.com.