The key to a perfect loaf of bread is time. The right number of hours to let the dough rise, just enough minutes in the gas-fired oven to build a crisp crust and soft and chewy interior and plenty of years to get the recipe just right.
A loaf of Columbus bread is enriched flour, water, salt and yeast and comes in three different shapes. There’s the soft loaf, baked with other loaves sandwiched next to it so the sides remain soft when it’s pulled apart and bagged.
Then there’s the point loaf, baked separated, so the sides pick up the beautiful crunch. Lastly, there’s the flat loaf, which resembles a Turkish ramazan pide.
They’ve been baking bread since 1895, but it hasn’t taken 120 years for them to realize that fresher bread=better bread. When I go to the bakery after work during the week, the loaves are always still warm, even if it’s 5 p.m. and they close in an hour and a half.
On the weekends, when the line is longer and the bread goes from oven to bag to grabby hands in a matter of seconds, you have to play hot potato to keep your hands from burning.
The deli side of the bakery, opened in 2009, is a recent addition to the North Side Syracuse institution. There’s a full line of deli sandwiches and Boar’s Head cold cuts, but the star of the show are the meatballs. More specifically, it’s the meatballs in a heel.
It’s simple really; take a point loaf, cut it in half, scoop out the inside and fill it with meatballs and cheese. Your newly formed bread trough is perfect for keeping everything together. The meatballs are meaty with a savory kick, probably from a generous pinch or two of Parmesan or Romano cheese. They’re available à la carte too ($.80/each) and spruce up any plate of pasta.
One could debate which shape of bread is best, but I offer one tip. Pick whatever yet-to-be-bagged loaf is still in the long wooden tray fresh from the oven, regardless of shape. Time, after all, is the most important part.
Columbus Baking Company
502 Pearl St., Syracuse, N.Y., 13203
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily