Rise and Shine

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O utfitted with immaculate hardwood floors, butcher-block tables and lithe metal chairs, G Café Bakery in the center of Branford is about as idyllic as the main street it faces. Playful, modern handmade ceramics by co-owner Kiara Matos (pictured left, above) are displayed artfully to the left of the entrance; extending rightward is the service hub, where platters piled with pastries and shelves lined with paninis rest behind glass. Climbing up the back wall are rows of fresh breads for sale, sculpted and dusted with flour, labeled using small chalkboard-like signs. Some of the names are strange and intimidating: vollkornbrot, landbrot, bauernbrot. Others are familiar and reassuring: Italian ciabatta, French pain au levain, Jewish rye.

Made on-site, these are the work of Matos’s husband and business partner Andrea Corazzini, who comes to the restaurant—opened last year as a retail companion to his existing New Haven wholesale artisan bread bakery, Whole G—every afternoon to make them. The “G,” he says, stands for many things, including the whole-grain breads and “good,” health-conscious dishes the café serves: hearty soups, fresh salads and filling sandwiches.

Most importantly, though, G stands for German, as in German bread.

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You might wonder how Corazzini, who was born in Spain and raised in Italy, and who went to college in America before settling in Venezuela for twenty years, has the cultural bandwidth for German anything. Still, after a chance acquaintanceship with two German bakers who’d opened a shop near his home in Caracas, his passion for the art behind the bread leavened almost instantly. And with about 300 possible varieties, made by master artisans who “take enormous pride in creating breads as they should be made, with time, technique, the right look, nutritional value and taste,” he says, there was a lot to be passionate about. “I was so enthusiastic, I begged them to sell me part of their business. Not a good strategy,” he says, laughing.

Perhaps not, but before long, his baker friends returned to their homeland and sold him the whole operation, leaving Corazzini with a dilemma: should he find someone new to run the business for him, or dive into baking himself? He chose the latter and pursued it with customary zeal, traveling to Germany to train firsthand. “I met a number of bakers, some of whom let me work in their shops,” he says, “and gained the necessary skills to become authentic.”

Classic German bread is distinguished by its use of a sourdough base that’s very different from the kind found in San Francisco-style varieties or pain au levain. “It’s a special sourdough that you take care of, that you drive like a car,” says Corazzini. He describes it as the “perfect blend” of lactic acid and acetic acid, a fragile balance with its own special scent. “Every day you have to smell it, make sure the balance is correct.” If the scent is on the mark, no matter where the bread is made, it can drive a native German to tears. “And if it doesn’t take that person back to his homeland, you’re not doing it right.”

This exalted sourdough is considered the perfect complement to rye grain, which is also of a very different character from the wheat found in most breads. “Wheat is elastic, rye is not,” he says. “It’s almost like working with clay. So the techniques for shaping these breads are completely different.”

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Supremely healthy—fiber-rich and cholesterol-free—rye is believed to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. German bakers utilize the grain in a variety of forms, from refined rye flour to rye meal and whole rye berries. In addition, their breads tend to utilize a number of good-for-you mix-ins: sunflower and flax seeds, walnuts and hazelnuts, dates and raisins. Iconic vollkornbrot—whole rye bread—is so packed with this kind of dietary bonanza that slicing it evenly is a serious challenge.

When finally ready to manage his own bakery, Corrazini—by then married to Matos and growing a family—decided not to return home. “Venezuela is a beautiful country, but it’s also one of the most dangerous in the world,” he says. As a teenager, Matos had spent a year as an exchange student in New Haven, studying English at Albertus Magnus College and living with a local couple she considered her second parents. Her fond memories made the Elm City their next destination.

In 2010, the family arrived stateside and established Whole G on Hamilton Street, in the same complex that houses a storage facility for another New Haven artisanal bakery, Chabaso. “The Negaro family gave us great support, helped us get established,” Corazzini says of Chabaso’s founders.

Whole G built its wholesale business one loaf at a time—“literally,” he says. “I baked 10 breads the first day, 12 the second. My wife and I worked alternating shifts.” Now the bakery employs 21 full- and part-time workers, who produce 800 to 1,000 loaves daily. Its products are available at local restaurants such as Caseus, Zinc, Heirloom and Union League Café, and specialty groceries like Elm City Market and Edge of the Woods. An online mail-order service overnights products to customers as far afield as California and Florida.

The bakery’s repertoire has expanded to feature a wide range of what Corazzini calls “Nordic” (or Northern European) breads, “all grainy, good-looking and preservative-free.” There’s a “very good Italian ciabatta” and a soft-crusted farmer’s bread that can take up to three days to produce, as well as pretzel rolls, cookies, pastries and holiday specialties like pecan pie and stollen. Panettone will debut next Christmas.

German bread remains the signature specialty, yet it can be a hard sell. “When people try it, they like it,” Corazzini says. “But some aren’t sure what to make of it, because it looks and tastes so different.”

He sees G Café as the ideal place to do public “breaducation,” through direct one-on-one interactions, and that’s the way he likes it. “Artisanal baking is a very ‘human-dimensioned’ kind of work. It’s very pleasing, day-to-day.”

G Café
1008 Main St, Branford (map)
Mon-Fri 7am-6pm, Sat 7am-5pm, Sun 8am-2pm
(203) 208-0930
www.wholeg.com/g-cafe
Whole G
105 Hamilton St, New Haven (map)
(203) 848-2141
www.wholeg.com

Written by Patricia Grandjean. Photographed by Dan Mims.

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A former senior editor at Connecticut Magazine, Pat Grandjean is a cultural omnivore who loves everything from Beck and “Doc Martin” to Shakespeare and Quentin Tarantino. She currently spends much of her free time volunteering at the New Haven Animal Shelter and cleaning apartment closets.

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