It's a slice of vegan heaven.
Located next door to Harvest Market, Fiore's Bakery is a thriving spot that does more than simply satisfy South Street's sweet tooth and the community's caffeine cravings. As namesake owner Charles Fiore recently told me, the shop has undergone several evolutions since he opened some six years ago. For one, the interior space was redesigned. The sunny eatery now sports a new paint job, blond wood café tables, and more display space.
The menu was also revamped. Originally, a traditional Italian bakery, Fiore's now offers a broad range of breakfast, lunch, and desert choices to accommodate virtually any taste or dietary choice. Customers can still enjoy a colorful selection of biscotti ($11. 50 per lb.). Fiore's has a variety of familiar and fresh baked goods like brownies, scones, lemon squares, and muffins (most priced between $2 to $4). Fresh breads include foccacia, baguettes, white, and multigrain loaves ($2.75 to $4.25).
As a steady stream of customers poured in and out, Fiore seemed to know everyone and their dog's name. He told me that the decision to include not only vegetarian but also vegan items was made at the suggestion of some of the young staff that worked at the shop. (Vegans, of course, eschew the use of all animal products, including leather, honey, and wool.) Without eggs, dairy products, or many of the fats that conventionally give foods their flavor, vegan cooking can be challenging, especially in the case of baked goods.
Over the course of several visits with some friends, we sampled a variety of Fiore's' sweet and savory vegan offerings. (Most priced from $2 to $3) Plump with berries, the vegan blueberry scone was virtually indistinguishable from the original. On one occasion, JP Patch editor Chris Helms and his wife Jane joined me for one of the bakery's organic, fairly traded coffees, and a vegan brownie. He found it to be "firm, moist, chocolaty, and held together well." The apple cinnamon muffin that I tried, while tasty, was less successful, and stuck somewhat stubbornly to the tissue wrapping that it was baked in. On a subsequent visit though, it seemed that my timing was perfect when I tried a scrumptious spinach and onion vegan scone, still warm from the oven.
Fiore's also offers two more substantial all-day breakfast options. Although not vegan, "The "French Omelet" was a light and fluffy creation deserving of the name. Delicately flavored with a mixture of herbs, and a sprinkling of cheese, it comes with dressed greens, and freshly grilled crostini. The plate-sized "Belgian Waffles" were made from a light batter, and are served with your choice of fruit compote and Chantilly cream. At $4.95 each, including a small coffee, they are among the bakery's best bargains.
The lunch menu was also expanded to include a wide selection of sandwiches ($4.95 to $6.95) and salads ($6.95). (All sandwiches are served with a side salad.) We sampled "The Linden Path" ($5.95), a tasty grilled Pullman loaf with melted mozzarella and provolone cheeses, tomato, and pesto. "The Arboretum" ($6.95) is hearty vegan sandwich made with marinated seitan, soy feta, tomato, and baby spinach on foccacia bread. Fiore's will make any of their sandwiches vegan by substituting baked seitan, tofu, or tempeh for meat, and will also serve them on gluten-free bread.
Lighter lunch options include soup of the day ($3.25 small, $4.25 large), with at least one vegetarian or vegan option like the "Three Bean Chile" offered on the afternoon that we visited. Fiore's also serves pizza ($2.25 Cheese or $2.50 Vegan) by the slice. My non-veg dining companion commented that, without the goo or grease, "The Vegan Cashew Cheese" slice "wasn't exactly like pizza. But it's not bad." To me, however, the slice had a crispy crust, and the tomato, basil, carrot, and roasted red pepper toppings, were not only healthy but flavorful.
Fiore's also has a catering operation and bakes custom cakes ($20 and up) for any occasion in sizes ranging from 6-inches to full sheet cakes that serve 70-80 people. The bakery is one of a handful of Boston bakeries that makes vegan cakes.
Owner Fiore told me, "We've had customers come from as far away as Wakefield and Melrose for them."
Fiore is committed to the community that he serves. He told me that the shop gives its leftovers to neighborhood groups like JP's KidsArts and the Curley School. The bakery made cupcakes for this past weekend's Lantern Parade with all proceeds going to Spontaneous Celebrations, the event's sponsor.
Fiore anticipates more changes ahead. There are plans for a gourmet cupcake bar. With master chef Phil Kruta in the kitchen, the bakery is continually offering new items like a delectable sounding "Cabernet Sauvignon Cherry Tart,"and a "Vegan Cheesecake" with "Tofutti," a soy-based cream cheese. Kruta recently created a new "Italian Maki" sandwich, made with eggplant or seitan, avocado, caramelized onions, sprouts, pesto and spicy "veganaise" on foccacia. Remarkably, Fiore exclaimed, "It tastes just like sushi!"
"But," he cautioned, "We want to continue to have something for every taste. I don't want the bakery to become like the South End."
There appears to be no danger of that. Fiore's Bakery is a slice of vegan heaven and much more that is distinctly JP.
Located at 55 South Street, Fiore's Bakery (617-524-9200) is open Monday – Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.