Fabien Moreau, owner La Gourmandine Bakery

Fabien Moreau, owner of the much-loved, authentically French La Gourmandine Bakery, keeps a lot of plates spinning these days. It’s not just all the work that goes into creating delicious croissants, pastries and breads consuming his time, but the actual nuts and bolts of opening another bakery. The newest shop, which he hopes to open before Christmas, is a key part of the revitalization effort along Second Avenue in Hazelwood. This latest outpost of La Gourmandine will bring a fresh food option to the commercial district and will become the third Pittsburgh location for the bakery (along with Lawrenceville and Mt. Lebanon) to open in just six years. In the new space, customers will get to see bakers at work in the kitchen and bread being loaded into the oven.

Getting the new shop ready couldn’t come at a busier time for both Fabien and his wife, Lisanne, who also oversees the bakery operations. La Gourmandine is on the go-to list around the holidays, as evidenced by an even longer line of loyal customers spilling out onto the sidewalks. This year, the couple will put the finishing touches on both the construction of their new Hazelwood shop and their super popular Christmas Logs at the same time. (If you haven’t tried one, the Christmas Log is a traditional French dessert that consists of rolled sponge cake filled with buttercream or chocolate—so sweet and delectable).

Understandably, Fabien and Lisanne don’t get out as often they would like, but they do enjoy sampling other chefs’ baking creations. Fabien shared one of his favorites for the best meal he ate last week.

The best meal I ate last week was the pizza at Il Pizzaiolo in Mt. Lebanon. The pizza they make there reminds me of pizza I used to have in Europe. The crust especially reminds me of this. It is lighter, with more air coming from the dough which I like. It’s airy inside and lighter but not greasy. Pizza dough can sometimes be a lot more dense here.

I also like the toppings because they use many real ingredients from Italy. I like to eat in places that use ingredients that come from the places the kind of food is from. The mozzarella placed on top and the Parmigiano-Reggiano is authentic and tasty. For me, it tastes like something you would get in Italy and it’s delicious.

The way they prepare the pizza in the wood fire oven also makes a big difference for the taste. It also helps give the crust a nice texture that I really like.

High praise from someone who really knows his baking and crusts.

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Tom O'Connor is a photographer and writer currently based in Pittsburgh.