One of the best things about visiting the heart of Little Portugal in Toronto is the food. While the neighbourhood along Dundas West from Bathurst to Dufferin has rapidly gentrified over the past few years with new food establishments, you can still find plenty of restaurants and eateries specializing in traditional Portuguese fare.
Founded in 1991, Nova Era Bakery (now with several locations across the city) offers a variety of fresh baked goods and is well-frequented by the local Portuguese community. Their most popular menu item is their pastel de nata (“pastéis” for plural), which is arguably the best in Toronto.
The tarts are made from a flaky puff pastry that contains an egg custard filling. Topped with a hint of cinnamon and powered sugar, they’re super rich, creamy, and irresistibly delicious. Having a few of these is more than enough to get you into a sugar coma, but it’s a well-deserved indulgence. The tarts have a slightly caramelized top which makes them look burnt but this is done on purpose to add extra flavour (just think of it as a mark of beauty!).
The pastel de nata is believed to have been created by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon during the 17th century. The convents used large quantities of egg whites for starching clothes and clearing Port wine. They learned they could use the leftover yolks to create all sorts of sweet confections. Since 1837, the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, a nearby bakery has been producing the signature tarts but the recipe is a closely guarded secret. Today, there are countless versions of the tart all over the world.
So, the next time you find yourself in the neighbourhood, be sure to drop by Nova Era and enjoy a pastel de nata with your coffee.