Serano Bakery & Grocery on Pape -recently renovated
Serano has been renovated, and now has a larger, better laid-out, open concept space. It appears the olive oil and cheese selection have also improved considerably.
This has become my new bakery of choice - and in Analyst terms, am bumping up this place from a neutral rating to outperform. lol
This place could vouch for the best baklava in Toronto. Seriously.
I've tried it 3 times now to make sure the first wasn't an anomaly - and it continues to impress me everytime. The prices are unbelievable for the quality, and I've got no complaints so far.
For those diehard baklava enthusiasts - when you enter the store the right display case at the end is full of many different kinds - some flavour profiles I had never tried before. The small pieces are sold by kilo and usually average $.75 a piece - I would suggest trying a few different varieties. There are new takes I had never tried before like hazelnut nutella, chocolate filled, fig, cranberry, apricot, and of course the traditional kinds with different nuts.
Seriously everything was pretty good - enough for me to put their Baklava ahead of Patisserie Royale, Select, Paramount, Pizza Pide, and other places I've reviewed before etc.
The only flaws with this place are that they don't label their prices (and they should because everything is cheap - small pastries are only $0.80 each) and their parking lot can be 'tight' sometimes.
Could you compare the baklava more specifically to that at Pizza Pide? I like the baklava at Pizza Pide because it isn't so cloyingly sweet. Many Greek baklavas are so sweet that I don't enjoy them.
Does Serano have galaktoboureko? How does it compare to the one at Athens Pastries?
re: Dr. John
Most of their baklavas are syrupy, Greek-style baklavas, so you'll probably find it too sweet for your taste. There are some varieties at Serano that are drier than others- the bite-sized round spirals with sliced almonds, and the bite-sized coconut baklava, are drier than the bite-sized squares, cylinders and rectangular baklavas. The deep-dish baklava in the pan is extra-syrupy. The syrup at Serano is better tasting than the syrup used by most restaurants used on the Danforth. While I like Persian baklava (even though it's a dry type of baklava), I find most Turkish and Lebanese baklavas too dry and not sweet enough for my taste.
Serano does sell galaktoboureko. I haven't tried it, so I'm not sure how it compares to the version at Athens Pastries, although if I remember correctly, the Serano version is thicker/taller than the Athens version. I haven't been that impressed by Athens Pastries' galaktoboureko or bougatsa, so I usually stick with the loukamades.
The bougatsa has deteriorated over the years at Athens -- the amount of pastry to crema filing over the years has increased (too much pastry now). That said, the crema inside the bougatsa is very tasty.
My issue with all commercial galaktoboureko is that it gets made in large batches and syruped, where it then sits in the display case and they phyllo pastry softens to the point of mush.
Serano makes wonderful chcolocate/almond cookies, and diplota (I don't mean diples, but rather the wafer and mousse confections wrapped in brightly coloured foil)
I have never tried their baklava, as I (not so humbly) believe that none, including my mother's, compares to my own :). I also find most commercial baklavas to syrupy/cloying
My issue with commercial galaktoboureko is that too many bakeries cut corners- not enough eggs, and sometimes cheap stabilizers. I've never had commercial galaktoboureko that compares with home-made, and I've never had commerical galaktoboureko that has crisp filo. I also haven't had any bougatsa in TO that compares to the good commercially made versions I've found across the pond, so I don't bother with it in TO.
For a commercially-made, Greek-style baklava, I find the Serano version is fine, as is their kataifi. It isn't as good as my family's baklava (and I take your word that it wouldn't be as good as yours!), but it is better than some home-made versions I've been gifted at Xmas, and I like the various bite-sized versions that are available, in shapes and/or with fillings I never make at home.
The last batch of Serano kourabiedes had the cheap oil taste that I dislike in commercial cookies, but I've been happy with everything else I've bought at Serano's lately.
Greek breads and pastries are quite distinct from Danish breads and pastries, so I wouldn't tend to compare them.
Select's baked goods are comparable to the baked goods at Select and Donlands, the other 2 Greek bakeries in the area at a similar quality level, with a wide selection. I like the Greek white bread with sesame seeds, the melamakarona and the deep-dish baklava. I've tried their baklavas, kataifi, kourabiedes, loukoumi and tyropita, which are fine for a Greek commerical bakery. Their filo pies (spanakopita, tyropita, bougatsa) are ok, but I like the type sold at Akropolis better, and no commercial filo pie compares to good home-made version. Serano's filo pies are a different style than the ones sold at Athens Pastries, and a different style from those sold at Akropolis. That being said, Serano's filo pies are similar to those sold in many Greek bakeries in Greece. Their baklava is Greek-style with lots of honey syrup, and might not appeal to those used to Middle Eastern versions which tend to be drier. Depends on what type you're used to.
I would stick with Greek baked goods, rather than WASPy-style or French-style baked goods sold at Serano, since they are a Greek bakery, and that's what they do best. I've found their Chocolate and Strawberry Cream layer cakes to be fine for their economical pricepoint, but they are not the type of cakes that will impress someone who buys their cakes at Rahier or Dufflets. It's a more basic, ordinary type of layer cake.
I don't know how their goods compare to the Danish bakery because I've never tried the Danish bakery. Serano has a much wider selection of baked goods, since they have several sections to their bakery- the syrup-soaked desserts ( baklava, kataifi, ravani), cookies (kourabiedes, melamakarona, other cookies), cream-based sweets (koks, Greek bakery versions of French-style napoleons, etc), fried sweets (diples), filo-based goods (bougatsa, tyropita).
Most goods I've tried at Serano are quite good, but I keep my expectations in check for a reasonably-priced "etnic" bakery. I'd be more tempted to compare its goods to Portuguese or Italian bakeries at a similar pricepoint, taking into consideration the differences in Portuguese, Greek and Italian baking traditions, rather than comparing Serano's goods to those sold at the more expensive French, Belgian or Canadian-style bakeries/pastry shops in North Toronto.
Serano also sells several thicknesses and types of filo, in case anyone is making their own pastries at home.
Would you recommend the Danish bakery?
i'm guessing you know which bakery i'm talking about. I forget its actual name, but it may be Danish Bakery. Its closer to O'Connor and on the east side of the road.
i go there on occasion. their pies are very good and cheap. a nice dessert option. think they used canned fruit, though.
to be honest, i try to avoid bakeries and they're a dessert bakery first. i don't recall if they sell bread.
if you want to try it, you'll have to wait. they usually close for a month in the summer for vacation and i think that month is now.