Every place I live -- and there have been many across this continent and beyond -- we always seem to establish that one weekly ritual stop for a taste of the good life. When I was growing up on Long Island, it was Family Deli in Bohemia. There always seemed to be a good reason to stop there after church. These days in the Toronto area, our go to destination is the Monastery Bakery in Oakville, Ontario.
Here, there's more spoken Italian than in Italy, at least in the tourist spots. The destination is worth the gas spent for the 40 minute round trip along Lake Ontario between Burlington and Oakville. We almost always skip the 403 highway and take a scenic route along the lake shore, gaping at the mansions. This is quality time for my wife and I -- why rush? I find myself planning weekends around the pilgrimage, and sad when business travel keeps me away. The word is out though, because it's not uncommon for police to assist with traffic control in and out of the parking lot on weekends during peak hours. There's a lunchtime rush for fresh sandwiches during the school year too. The good taste of this new generation gives me hope for the future.
Despite the crowds, the customers and staff always seem to be in a happy mood when I'm here. People break out in good manners. Perhaps it's the welcoming, family feel, like you're running into old friends at home. Perhaps they just feel content the product is worth the money. If the deli line is busy, just take a number in this bustling place and savor the mingling aromas. Sometimes it's good to wait in a line.
Besides the breads and pastries there's a fully stocked deli, imported specialty foods (especially from Italy), prepared dishes and enough samples of cheeses, handmade pasta, meats and other foodie fare that you can almost make a lunch out of it. But I always keep room for my weekly strip loin or brisket -- lathered with caramelized onions, whole grain mustard and horseradish on a kaiser bun -- and a cup of their excellent free coffee. Coffee drinkers with more refined tastes can choose from a wider selection on the cafe menu and perhaps watch the news from Italy.
We stock up on lunch meats, cheese and breads every time we are here, but we just keep running out. I guess it's time for another drive...