La Rose Fine Italian Bakery and Delicatessen

Serving sweet treats and home cooking
Written by: 
Erica Berry
Produced by: 
Sean Barr

Cosimo Lizzi came to Canada from his homeland of Italy. Cosimo later met his wife, Maggie, and the couple purchased a bakery in 1982. In Italy, Cosimo studied architectural and structural engineering; however, he grew up in a service family.

Cosmio’s family ran a convenience store, baking break and making olive oil. Maggie also grew up in the industry, as her father had a bakery in Toronto. Needless to say, it was a perfect match.

Although Cosimo was an architect by trade, he found a passion for food and customer service in the grocery store and he transferred the desire to please to his latest business venture – La Rose Fine Italian Bakery and Delicatessen (La Rose).

Since Cosimo and Maggie purchased the bakery in 1982, the business has flourished and forced the couple to change locations within the plaza three times. The original location was a mere 1,500 square feet, the second was double in size at 3,000 square feet and the bakery’s third and current location measures in at 13,000 square feet.

“When we moved into this space, we never thought we could fill it,” explains Sal, the couples’ oldest son and La Rose manager. “Now we’ve been here for 13 years and we have no space. As the only bakery in our community that makes everything fresh, in-house, every day, people recognize our quality and keep coming back for more.”

The bakery’s hometown of Milton has exploded in population over the past few years, posing the challenge of increasing production volume while maintaining quality. “We’re keeping up, but it’s not easy,” explains Sal. “Over the next 25 years the population is apparently expected to reach 500,000. That’s a lot of pizza dough and cannoli.”

To maintain a steady supply of freshly baked goods, breads and hot dishes for its growing customer base, La Rose has added a night shift and stays well-staffed, with nearly 40 of its 60 employees working each day.

Treats for all tastes

The bakery­ offers up a bounty of delicious treats, but the most famous of its pastries and baked goods are the traditional Italian cannoli, Calabrese bread and pizza dough – which along with its other varieties of treats are made fresh daily. “I was in Vancouver and ran into a woman who used to come into the bakery,” says Sal. “She begged me to send her pizza dough.”

As a one-stop shop for everything delicious, La Rose doesn’t just serve up the freshest breads and sweets in Ontario, it also offers catering services and operates as a full service deli, dishing out culinary delights, such as sandwiches, salads, fresh mozzarella, cold cuts and several hot table dishes, including take-home items.

La Rose is open seven days a week and serves lunch to nearly 1,000 customers each day. “Our hot table is the biggest draw during the week,” explains Sal. “People come from all over to get a home-style meal.” In addition to the deli and bakery, La Rose also supplies patrons with fresh, local produce and dairy, specialty grocery items and frozen foods.

Each department, including deli, bakery and hot table, has its own counter within the store, which allows for faster and more attentive service. “We have up to 10 people working our counters at any given time,” says Sal. “If one department is busy and the next doesn’t have anyone waiting, we can flock to one side and help take and fill orders. It’s the best customer service we can give.”

A family affair

As the Italian family stereotype would play out, the dynamic within the bakery is very much a family affair. “We all work together to keep our traditions alive and give our customers the best products they’ve come to expect,” says Sal. “It’s not easy getting up early in the morning, but we love being together – even my four nieces and nephews, all under the age of 8, pitch in. They love helping their nonna price grocery items, stock shelves, sweep the floors, learn how the espresso machine works and try all the new products we make. When I was their age I was doing the same thing, it’s a great feeling to have four generations of bakers under one roof.”

With production demands skyrocketing, Cosimo and Maggie are dependent on their family members to keep operations running smoothly. “My parents are here every day,” explains Sal. “My dad always gives his advice to every aspect of our business and decision-making. Occasionally, he’ll even help out with baking the bread. I guess sometimes he misses it, since it used to be what he did full time. My mom keeps the books, sources specialty food items, creates beautiful displays and arranges gift baskets. Her touches are unmistakable in our store – she has an incredible eye for merchandising and creates seasonal displays that welcome you from the moment you walk in. My sister Emily is a cake artist and does all our custom cakes. My sister Maria helps with customer service and works in the office. My brother Domenic runs the garden centre in the summer, helps with deliveries and is our local handyman. Even our cousins are here with us, providing service for over 20 years to our customers that know them by name. Some of our customers call us the Canadian Cake Boss without the attitude. It’s like a TV show in here and I love it.”

However, not everyone that works at La Rose is immediate family. “We would never be where we are today without the dedication of our numerous employees that often work long shifts even six times a week when need be,” Sal continues. “We are so grateful for that and feel honoured to welcome them into our family.”

Sweet dreams

While Sal has plans of remodeling and expanding La Rose, he wants to take it one step at a time, as to not over extend the already busy family. “When we moved into our current spot 13 years ago, we also bought the plaza,” explains Sal. “I have a big plan in my head for renovations and remodeling, but that’s one or two years down the road. Right now we need to focus on the core of our business and answer one question: How can we continue to increase our volume without compromising quality? Once we nail that we can move on. If the core isn’t solid you can’t build around it.”

La Rose also tracks sales to better understand consumer demand. All of the bakery’s departments are categorized under their own entity and each week Sal analyses the sale reports to see which products are gaining popularity and which are losing their mojo.

“By using data we are able to reduce waste and stay up-to-date with demand,” explains Sal. “If we know our scones have a tendency to sell out, we will make more. Adversely, if the numbers show that we throw away 10 loaves of ciabatta each day, we will cut back on our production.”

When it comes to measuring success, La Rose doesn’t just crunch numbers, it also relies heavily on customer satisfaction. “We have the best patrons,” explains Sal. “One lady who had been coming here for years was moving to Calgary, but before she left she came in and bought 12 containers of tomato sauce. We had to triple wrap it, put it in a special container for air transport and then freeze it when it arrived at her new home. It’s amazing what people will do for some good sauce – we’ll have to send her some when she runs out.”

With a reputation for delicious treats and home-style meals, La Rose is a staple in the Milton community. The bakery’s dedication to providing its patrons with the freshest, highest-quality foods, coupled with its strong understanding of the business world, puts La Rose Fine Italian Bakery and Delicatessen on the path to a sweet future

Strategic Partnership(s): 
GT French Paper Ltd.