What makes Biscotteria Forno Cultura – a minuscolo Italian cookie shop located in Union Station – an essential food and design destination
Nearly a quarter of a million people circulate through Union Station each day, mostly in a rush, and mostly still under the impression that there’s nothing much to see as they stride through and under John M. Lyle’s Beaux-Arts monument. But that impression is no longer accurate.
Beside the ramp that leads up and eventually out to Front Street, just inside a shop window whose lighting contrasts invitingly with the sombre hall, there’s now a brass post with two teak wings. Designed (along with the rest of the space) by Guido Costantino, the structure is a stand-up espresso table – a perfect synecdoche for Biscotteria Forno Cultura. At just over 30 square metres, the shop doesn’t encourage you to spend much time here. But its interior – by Costantino, alongside fabricators Filo Timo and EDM stone contractor, with branding by Small Project Studio (most of whom are long-time friends of owner Andrea Mastrandrea) – ensures that the time you do spend there is salve for the harried commuter’s soul.
This place is a gem. The brass brackets and grooves that operate the floor-level drawers, fronted by slices of natural limestone, are unusual, but just right. The ceiling panels are teak. Even the packaging is more exquisite than it needs to be, hidden in a push-open drawer that is itself flush and secreted beneath the two biscotti-topped limestone planes at the centre of the space. But it’s an efficient gem. Not a square metre is wasted, and the packaging is a sort of frugal luxury. Along with gold foil–stamped wrappers and satisfyingly rigid bags, Andrew Di Rosa of Small Project Studio conceived efficiencies born of the fact that the biscotti – surprisingly, pleasingly soft and crumbly – are also business card–sized. And this boutique is all about those biscotti, utterly unlike the hard-tack Toronto standard. They are pricey, at $8 for 100 grams, but that’s also part of the plan.
“When we started,” Mastrandrea explains, “I said, ‘Why don’t we design a space that actively edits people who are not interested in this?’ ” And so the shop remains, even during rush hour, active but uncrowded – a lovely minute’s respite from the bustle surrounding it.
Originally published in our Reno Issue 2018 as Knead to Know.