Tantardini’s Italian Family Tradition
07/20/2016 11:00AM ● Published by Claudia Mosby
Flour, Yeast, Salt and Gratitude
By Claudia Mosby
Photo: Jeannine Hendrickson
At 4 am, while most of Redding sleeps, six days a week Diego Tantardini is opening the door to his bakery where he will spend the next four hours making bread and pastries for regular customers and any others who happen to wander on in.
“It’s a long process from a bag of flour to the finished product,” says the baker from Milan, who never took a cooking class, but grew up watching his mother and grandmother bake.
At age 15, during a daily trip to the panetteria, his mother had convinced the shop’s baker to take him on and teach him. “In Italy, there was no grocery store or market with pre-packaged food,” Tantardini says. “Cooking and baking are part of our culture. We buy fresh bread every day.”
He soon discovered, however, the cultural differences in the attitude about food is significant between residents of Milan, Italy and Redding, Calif. As a result, he expanded the bakery and deli business to include catering and, more recently, a fresh-from-scratch fruit and vegetable juice bar.
“Americans go to the store, get a couple bags of bread, and put them in the refrigerator where they last for 15 days,” says Tantardini. “If you read the ingredients, the list is unending. After two days, our bread is stale. Why? Because it’s natural.“
With flour, yeast, salt and water, Tantardini remains true to tradition in creating a simple, yet flavorful bread. “We don’t do organic yet, but we’re going to switch next year because I see that there is a lot of demand,” he adds.
Using only unbleached flour for all of his baking, he also tries to avoid enriched flour. “The color, how it handles, how it rises, are noticeably different,” he says. “The enriched rises better, but there is no disclosure as to what comprises ‘enrichment.’”
Still, he has found a niche with customers who appreciate a wholesome approach to baked goods, and he also distributes his bread through local retailers Orchard Nutrition, Kent’s Market and the Coffee Bar.
Tantardini and his family first came to Redding when he took a year-long sabbatical from his corporate job. He started baking here because he could not find what he wanted in the stores. Opening Tantardini’s European Bakery-Deli in February 2015 with wife Deborah seemed a logical step.
They produce 100 loaves of bread and 50 pastries daily, in addition to house favorites like lasagna and tiramisu (“It is sweet but not overly sweet,” he says of the ladyfinger-cum-espresso treat. “You can taste all the flavors.”). Several deli items are imported directly from Italy.
“The prosciutto comes from Parma, where the weather is mild,” says Tantardini. “Some is aged in caves for at least 18 months and seasoned only with salt and spices.” What he doesn’t order direct, he sources through authentic Italian company Molinari & Sons in San Francisco.
Family members frequently send recipes from Italy, sometimes with minute detail about preparation. “Deborah’s aunt sent a recipe and was so deep in the detail she talked about using our pinkie fingers to roll the dough,” chuckles Tantardini. His mother vows to work alongside her son in the kitchen when she comes for a visit.
“It’s a really hard business,” he admits. “If you don’t have the passion, it will be hard to keep going. We have many people who say, ‘Thank you for being here, for bringing European culture to our community.’”
Gratitude—and the smell of the first bake in the morning—keep him going.
www.tantardinis.com • (530) 645 8958
2931 Churn Creek Road, Redding