Now that it’s official the Quinzani’s Bakery site in the South End will become high-end residences, it’s time to wax poetic about their rolls and their Italian bread – the loaves with the garlic butter already inside.
The City recently approved a major project to replace the old bakery and a bean sprout company.
I have no real memories of the bean sprout place, but the bakery holds a special place in my mind of old time Boston.
I don’t recall how long it was on the corner of East Berkeley Street, but it had to be at least 50 years before it shut down a couple of years ago. One of the best things they had was Italian bread that already had the garlic butter placed inside. You could pop it in the oven and it was tremendous. Other larger companies in the supermarkets in recent years copied that “innovation,” but I enjoyed the Quinzani loaf long before such things were “conveniently located in my grocer’s freezer section.”
Of course, Quinzani loaves were pumped out in the days before the food police in Boston banned partially hydrogenated baking ingredients. That happened about five or 10 years ago, and for my part, I’m going to say they absolutely ruined Italian bread in the City of Boston. There is no scali bread loaf that measures up to pre-ban days.
It all comes down to the crust, which is now more like a piece of fibre board than a crisp and flaky masterpiece.
And that’s what the Quinzani loaf had.
I and my family would stop by the bakery every Sunday after church. You had to make the precarious U-turn on Harrison coming from downtown to get into the little lot at the front door, but it was always well worth it. There was also little to no traffic there in what was once a very barren City landscape – especially on the weekends. There would naturally be a crowd, with large families buying bags of rolls and loaves in bulk for the upcoming week.
But that reminds me of another Boston innovation.
The take-out Chinese food bread rolls that come with most every order.
Nowhere else does this happen. If you go to Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland or Los Angeles, if you order General Gau’s Chicken on takeout, that’s what you’ll get aside from soy sauce packets. In Boston, order a Pu Pu Platter, and you can be darn sure to get three or four small bread rolls.
Why? Lord only knows. Most people I observe don’t even eat the rolls with the Chinese food. They either toss them in the trash, or if they are frugal folks, they’ll pop them in a plastic bag and warm them up the next day for breakfast.
I’m going to say that Quinzani’s was the innovator of the Boston Chinese food roll. If anyone cruised the neighborhood regularly before the bakery shut down, they would know that on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights Chinese food restaurants from Weymouth to Andover packed into Quinzani’s to buy the equivalent of three trash bags full of those rolls. They lined up three solid in their delivery cars to pack those rolls in and then run off to wherever their business was located. I imagine it became a tradition here that started with one guy who had some rolls, and he threw them in with an order. Then it snowballed and soon every Chinese food restaurant in Greater Boston had the expectation of including bread with takeout. It’s one of many Boston paradoxes. Who needs bread when you are eating food that is custom tailored for white rice? Does anyone need that much starch?
The rolls are small, about four inches long, and two inches tall. I have no idea who makes them now, but somebody is. Probably Piantedosi up in Malden. They seem to make just about everything else, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they took over that corner of the bread market.
When I was young, those little rolls were the bread on our sandwiches. They also served as the bread of choice on the breakfast table, to go with the plain oatmeal.
They were everywhere, and now they are nowhere.
Even take-out Chinese food has to adapt to the changing face of Boston.
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What gives with people in pajamas during snowstorms? I want to know who in the world gave the world of Boston permission to tromp around in snow boots and flannel pajamas every time more than five inches of snow falls on the ground.
This is a trend that just isn’t appealing.
This past snowstorm, I saw people heading to the corner store in sweaters and pajama bottoms; I saw a man shoveling in his pajamas. I even saw a pair of pajamas flying like a flag on a broomstick being used as a space saver in Mission Hill.
Enough with the PJs Boston. When it snows heavy, put on some pants and then get crackin’.
Mr. Boston can be contacted at [email protected].