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Welcome Name Change—One Less Toscanini

July 11th, 2007 · No Comments

The local bakery, located just over the line in Somerville (zip code 02143), has changed its name.

Originally “Toscanini & Son” (the first name change after the founding owners, who called their place Panini—yet didn’t sell sandwiches, even from their yeasty breads, until the very end of their tenure—sold to the present owners), the name was always confusing. No one, including the owners, offered an explanation that explained the relationship with Toscanini, the 25+ year-old ice cream emporium in Central Square (zip:02139), owned by Gus Rancatore, gelatophile, entrepreneur (and unknown to most, a really fine writer, witty and engaging). Toscanini and Son continued the Panino franchise, added to the inventory of baked goods (including the zesty “savory scones,” originally a week-end special in only one flavor combination, but now offered every day seemingly with ingredients according to the baker’s whim; not to mention the orange-poppy, pecan-cinnamon, and lemon-poppy ‘strudel,’ or so-called, but really a yeasty, light, just sweet enough breakfast roll), added to the sandwich menu, and added soups, both of which are popular lunch-time items and notable for their freshness, unfussy recipes that let the flavors shine through, and their high-value, food-wise and cost-wise.

The new name is “The Biscuit.” Which seems to come, or seems to want to come with a sort of instant caché. I think that quality could have been assured had they left off the definite article… but maybe there’s a bit too much of that kind of “instant caché” (what’s in a name?) still going on, after years of restaurants with names like Mistral, Radius, Pignoli, Evoo (just across the street from “The Biscuit”).

There’s still an ice cream freezer on the floor, but at this point all packaging and POS materials, formerly emblazoned with the Futura Bold logo of Toscanini, the cups of all sizes, signage, other impedimenta of branding, are gone.

I didn’t ask what kind of ice cream they’ll sell from now on, but when the owner, Greta Platt, saw the look of dismay on my face as I perused the windows emblazoned with new signage, she assured me, “Nothing’s changed. Don’t worry. Everything’s OK.” I simply asked, “How does Gus feel about it?” With maybe a half a beat of hesitation, she said, “It was a mutual thing.”

I’m sure there’s a story there, but a boring one.

Gus never seems to find the formula to satisfy his obviously active entrepreneurial drive. He did open another outlet in Harvard Square—essentially a hole-in-the-wall stuck between a Gnomon Copy and Leavitt & Pierce (both venerable merchants for decades and decades and remnants of the “old” Harvard Square). But it was closed for the duration, along with Gnomon, clothing shops, and the equally venerable Ferranti & Dege camera shop, when Harvard decided to restore this historic building (must have found some extra forgotten millions in some building fund).

I always resented the phantom presence of Toscanini in my favorite corner café, where everybody knows my name, and I am greeted by smiles and warmth—instead of the goth insouciance that seems to be the norm at Gus’s establishments—whichever happens to be open.

So Toscanini & Son is dead. Long live The Biscuit.

Tags: 02138 and environs · Food · Local Food · News

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