The bakery-café culture of Victoria is unlike any other Canadian city. In fact, Victoria is host to the highest density of restaurants per capita in the country. The British high tea days have been transformed by roast experts, and instead of Earl Grey and scones (minus the decadent Empress Afternoon Tea) the city is brimming with brewed bliss. And these espresso machines are paired so well with local bakeries. Every trip to the island involves at least one lingering café afternoon. We honestly feel like it is written in fine print on our ferry tickets – must idle at one of the following establishments:
#1 choice Ottavio Italian Bakery & Delicatessen, Oak Bay Village, 2272 Oak Bay Ave
Family-run based on generations of Ottavios cooking in Torino, the cookie, pastry and bread recipes stem from Nonno et Nonna Ottavio’s 1920s recipes. The terrace overlooking the Winchester Galleries courtyard is the place to be on a sunny afternoon. Inside you can shop for decadent artisanal cheese and cured meats after a cozy cappuccino (Illy espresso and local micro-roastery Caffé Fantastico). They even make their own gelato, which I have yet to try. The Ottavio family is also very involved in bringing gastronomy to the community by hosting street festivals in celebration of the big cheese cut (a couple times of year they cut from their giant wheels), France, Quebec, Oktoberfest, Spain, e l’Italia certo.
#2 Pure Vanilla Bakery & Café, 6-2590 Cadboro Bay Rd
Strong coffee and chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons. What more do you need? After a much-mourned closing of Torrefazione on Government street, I no longer have to stare at my empty inherited Deruta pottery; Vanilla uses Torrefazione beans to great delight.
#3 Cascadia Wholefoods Bakery, 1812 Government St
Owned by Rebar, they have cheaper/rotating lunch options. Hearty soups, pizza, the famous Rebar carrot cake. And always a cookie creation to crave. Pair that with Torrefazione Italia Espresso and you are good to go.
Side note: Vancouver on the other hand has me longing for more. Despite the sufficient JJ Beans, Intelligentsia-brewing Wicked Café, Portland-vibing Prado and Gene cafés and powerhouse Artigianos (I just saw 49th Parallel for sale in Toronto!), the marriage between on site baked goods and café fare with robust beans has yet to merge. At least in our experience, the sight of stale banana bread wrapped in cellophane at these establishments leaves us cold. Until we remember Coco et Olive Fine Foods & Café. Intelligentsia chocolate Americanos that will leave your heart fluttering for hours, the best French pastries I have ever encountered and sandwiches that make the corners of your mouth curl into a smile…what harmony. Some sort of buttery creation is always baking in the country kitchen, wafting to the front and encouraging you to take a load off, stay awhile and just be.