How do you identify good bread without tasting it?
Disney’s Ratatouille will tell you it’s the sound of a crackling crust, but local bread maker Tom Trunzo says otherwise.
“You can tell by the weight-to-volume,” he says.
“If you pick a sourdough up and are surprised at how light and structural it feels, chances are you’re in for a good loaf.”
What he lacks in formal qualifications, Tom more than makes up for in passion and experience.
In this, he is joined by his business partner Greg Forsyth. Together, they run Pane Paradiso – a boutique-sized bread wholesaler producing what some call the best bread made in the Gong.
Since launching in 2020, Pane Paradiso has amassed a loyal following, supplying dozens of businesses from as far north as Austinmer’s Moore Street General and as far south as Top Shop in Kiama.
Tom says he is living a dream that springs from cherished childhood memories.
“I grew up with parents making a very white yeasted bread that was familiar to them from their home town Farlerna, in Calabria, Italy,” he says.
“They would make it in our backyard in Warilla, my home town.
“It was always around this time of the year when my grandma was still alive, the whole family came around and we would make about a hundred loaves of bread. We’d have big lunches and dinners, family would stay the night and invariably more things would come out the oven the next day.
“This was a sort of bimonthly ritual throughout winter.”
Tom became fixated on the idea of a small operation in the Illawarra, but first spent time as a baker’s hand for South Coast institution Millers Local Bakehouse before moving on to Moon Acres in Robinson where he learned about the wholesale bakery industry, networked and learned from people of all skill levels.
Tom bought into Pane Paradiso shortly after it launched, which was then run by Greg and former co-owner Joel Mucci.
“Joel and Greg were passionate about sourdough, they love the craft and were willing to put the time in to yield a good result,” he says.
“Taking the time” is not an expression used lightly in the world of sourdough.
“Take today, for example. From 9 am to 5 pm today, we’ll be nursing the dough that we fed leaven to last night. We’ll do that till it’s ready to put in the fridge. That’s just one step in the process.
“All in all, it’s about 36 hours from start to finish to complete a loaf of sourdough.”
The Pane Paradiso loaf runs a little darker than a lot of sourdoughs.
“We bake ours for more caramelisation,” Tom says.
“It’s a question of preference, but I will always pick up the darkest sourdough on the shelf. I think you get more depth of flavour that way.”
Being still quite grassroots with no immediate plans to expand, the business has limited capacity to produce its bread and only opens its books to bake what it can manage.
The signature dark loaves found in Finbox, Black Market Roasters, Flametree Co-Op, Passion in Fruit and beyond often sell out before midday.
Despite the demand, Tom says the team is happy to stay boutique sized for now. After all, they’re in it for the dough, not the money.
“I’m enjoying what we’re doing,” he says.
“It takes me right back to loaves upon loaves, made in a backyard in Warilla, with love.”