A visit to an old friend brought the team behind La Migliore Italian Bakery to Paso Robles.
Though La Migliore is primarily a wholesale operation, Franco Poletti and Ali Walsh also sell freshly baked goodies at the Saturday morning farmers market in San Luis Obispo.
The husband and wife met while working aboard a Princess Cruises ship. He was the chief pastry chef; she was the food and beverage manager.
“Yes, you can say we met on the Love Boat,” joked Walsh, who hails from England.
In 2005, the newly engaged couple traveled to the Central Coast to see Poletti’s friend from his native Italy: Antonia Varia, owner of Buona Tavola restaurants in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robes and Alle-Pia Fine Cured Meats in Atascadero.
Poletti and Walsh immediately fell in love with the area. During their visit, they discovered that D’Best Bakery in Paso Robles was for sale.
They jumped at the chance to put down local roots and bought the business — morphing its name to the Italian translation of “the best.” La Migliore Italian Bakery was born.
La Migliore supplies breads to restaurants and coffeehouses throughout San Luis Obispo County. The most popular products are three flavors of rustic ciabatta baguettes: regular, Kalamata olive and blue cheese with caramelized onion. The company also provides items such as focaccias, panini and French baguettes.
“We bake and deliver six days a week, and we pride ourselves on a good quality product,” Walsh said. “Everything is hand-crafted, with no additives or preservatives.”
She added: “We also use a variety of organic fruits and grains, as well as unbleached and unbromated flours.” (Bromate has been linked to cancer in laboratory animals and is banned in several countries.)
La Migliore’s production begins in the wee hours. Poletti typically arrives at the bakery about 2 a.m., and then he and a staff of about four continue baking until mid-morning.
The process begins with prepping the flours and other ingredients needed for each specific recipe. The doughs are mixed and rested, shaped and rolled, proofed and baked — a process that takes about four to five hours.
After the breads have cooled, they are sliced and bagged for delivery later that same day.
About four years ago, Poletti and Walsh decided to expand beyond their wholesale model and start selling breads at the farmers market held Saturday mornings in the Central Coast Plaza Shopping Center parking lot in San Luis Obispo. Because the couple insists that all their products are as fresh as possible, Poletti pulls all-night baking sessions every Friday.
Patrons of La Migliore’s market booth can choose from about 15 different breads. Among those available every week are honey wheat with poppy seed bread, ciabatta baguettes and fruttanesca — a sumptuously hearty breakfast bread made with cranberries, raisins, sunflower seeds, walnuts and wheat berries.
On any given Saturday, other possibilities include torpedo rolls and bread sticks, fruit tartlets and Danish pastries, croissants and cinnamon swirl breads. The swirl loaf is especially good for French toast, Walsh noted.
In recent months, La Migliore’s retail product line has grown in response to consumer demand. New offerings include freshly made pastas such as fettuccini and gnocchi, plus take-and-bake lasagna and cannelloni.
“We use veggies from the market in the prepared pastas,” Walsh explained. “It keeps the product very sustainable, and we’re supporting our local farmers.”
Although expanding into the farmers market scene has added more baking hours, Poletti and Walsh relish the chance to connect with their customers.
“It’s really a fun market,” Walsh observed. “Everybody knows a lot of people, and we have a lot of regulars who come by. And if people nearby don’t know who we are, they usually come round as soon as Franco starts talking with his Italian accent.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
La Migliore Italian Bakery
Paso Robles (wholesale only)
Hours: La Migliore sells its freshly baked goods at the San Luis Obispo farmers market, 8 to 10:45 a.m. Saturdays at the Central Coast Plaza Shopping Center off Madonna Road. Special orders, such as specialty cakes and housemade pastas, are available upon advance request.