This gem is nestled in the heart of Saskatoon’s Broadway District, and is well worth seeking out. Our first encounter with this newly opened bakery/restaurant included a conversation with the owner who sang the praises of her baguette.
“Careful”, we cautioned. “We love baguette and have sampled the best of Montreal and Paris. I need to be convinced that yours is as good as you say.” We were delighted that we set our skepticism aside and tried a freshly baked baguette. The egg shell crust does what a good baguette should – cracks delightfully under light pressure from your thumb – and the bread itself is light and airy, with the slight salty sweetness that one demands of a great baguette. We were hooked, and determined that Il Secondo would become one of our “go to” places for great bread.
And great bread is what Il Secondo is justifiably famous for. They do baguette and epi as well as anywhere we’ve sampled, and their range of sourdoughs is inspired. They make an asiago and garlic sourdough that when drizzled with olive oil and grilled is divine. And their rosemary and olive oil sourdough (only available on Wednesday and Friday) is an inspired variation on a great bread recipe that we anticipate with great pleasure (and miss terribly when we get there too late to get a loaf). You’ll be hard pressed to find a more versatile sandwich bread anywhere.
Their breads are so good that we always devour them before anyone can pull out a camera. Hence, and to our embarrassment, we haven’t a picture of most of their fine selections.
Over time, however, we came to appreciate this little treasure for more than just the bread. We discovered that they make delicious coffee (one of us favours their Americano, while the other their Cappuccino). If you can find a place to sit either inside this cozy (and very busy) space or outside on one of the sidewalk tables, you can while away the time sipping some of the best coffee in Canada. That experience is enhanced when you accompany your coffee with any one of Il Secondo’s delicious baking creations.
While we’ve not yet come across anything that isn’t well worth sampling, a few of the treats arrayed tantalizingly in the small display case are worthy of special mention. The tarts (of which we have no pictures – see above re: rapid devouring) – Saskatoon Berry; Roasted Pear with Ginger; Pecan; and, Vanilla Bean – are ridiculously good. We’re not sure how they manage this, but you can buy one of the freshly baked tarts, take it home and refrigerate it, and the pastry will be as light and flaky the next day as it is when freshly baked – delicious! The Chaussons aux Pommes highlights the baker’s mastery of phyllo pastry, and the Saskatoon Berry and Custard Danish demonstrates how a truly gifted baker can make a dessert we usually avoid into a creation that we seek out at every opportunity. Finally, don’t miss the almond biscotti. This perfectly conceived creation has become a “must do” part of our morning coffee ritual; we’ve rarely encountered a biscotti that stands up so well to dipping in good, strong, dark coffee as these do – they are a treat not to be missed.
Topping all of this off (pun intended . . . wait for it) is Il Secondo’s mastery of the thin crust pizza baked in a genuine wood fired oven. How do we know this is the real, wood fired deal, and not the pale imitation so often claimed at other restaurants. Simple: the wood fired oven is front and centre when you walk into the small space, as is the person making the dough from scratch and carefully crafting your pizza fresh to order. Add to that the truly imaginative – yet simple – flavour combinations and delicious base ingredients (tomato sauce and cheese imported from Italy; only the best deli meats and fresh, crisp veggies) and you have the makings of the very best – by far – pizza in Saskatoon. Indeed, you’ll be hard pressed to find better thin crust pizza anywhere, though admittedly there are restaurants in New York City and some street ovens in Naples can legitimately claim the title of “Best Thin Crust Pizza on the Planet”.
Top all this off with a relaxed, friendly vibe and a limited but quality wine selection, and you have the makings for a hugely successful neighbourhood hang-out: which is exactly what Il Secondo is. If you’re ever in Saskatoon, don’t miss this place.
Christie’s Il Secondo
802C Broadway Ave.
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