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Norbert's Cheese Bytes

Norbert interviews Celestino Drago

Renowned restaurateur Celestino Drago (Drago, Il Pastaio, Celestino's) has a line of artisanal breads made at his new Dolce Forno bakery. After baking for his own restaurants for four years, he recently acquired a 6000 square foot bakery in Culver City, producing an extensive selection of Italian breads for the wholesale trade. Recognized by Food & Wine magazine as one of "The 10 Best Chefs" in the country, Celestino's new bakery will be a welcome contribution to our culinary community. We prefer to carry breads by small bakeries such as Dolce Forno, which offers us exclusive selections including olive bread, foccacia, ciabatta, filoncino baguette, and brioche.

Q: Celestino, we are so excited about carrying your breads in the store. With all of your wonderful restaurants, what inspired you to start selling breads?

A: Bread is very important to the success of any meal, it's a very important element in our daily diet. You can usually tell a good restaurant by their bread...that's why I watch very closely the quality of my breads for every restaurant, so I represent them in the best way possible.

Q: When did you start making breads here?

A: When I opened Drago, I began baking breads just for Drago: Ciabatta, Focaccia, and breadsticks. When I opened the Steakhouse in West Hollywood, I was able to have a larger oven and then bought the best oven possible on the market for baking bread. The result was ten times better than what I had been able to make at Drago. Little by little, by word of mouth, the bread got attention by other restaurateurs, caterers, and hotels. We did what we could from the Steakhouse, but in order to keep up I needed to find a larger place. That's when we opened Dolce Forno.

Q: What makes your breads so distinctive?

A: We try to create the best breads from all the regions in Italy: Carta De Musica from Sardinia, Semolina breads from Sicily, and of course, our best seller, Ciabatta. I come up with my own specialty recipes like the Caramelized Garlic Balsamic Vinegar Loaf, and Iím developing one with Dominico's Pomodori Secchi for The Cheese Store. It's still in development, but it's coming soon!

Q: Do you do the baking yourself?

A: I've been very lucky to have a great lead baker for the past 5 years, who has worked at some of the best bakeries in the area. Also, my dear friend Sandro Comacchia comes over twice a year from Sicily to consult for a month and check the quality of the breads.

Q: Where is the new bakery located? Can customers shop there?

A: Dolce Forno is in Culver City. It's 6000 sq. ft so we can do a lot of production. Very soon we will be offering retail and "will call" for our customers.

Q: Any other exciting news going on?

A: Yes, I am opening Enoteca Drago at the end of June on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills (where La Scala used to be.) It will be a wine bar and pizzeria with a small retail storefront for the bakery. We'll be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can try our breads at any time of the day!

Thank you Celestino!

Celestino Drago

Celestino's onion and poppy seed bread is delicious with fresh goat cheese and Domenico's Pomodori Secchi. Pair with Le Bocce Chianti Classico (2000, $10) or non-alcoholic beverage if you prefer.

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