For four years, Napa County residents have enjoyed Jay Magsano’s patisseries and other bakery goodies, either at his Le Paris Artisan & Gourmet Café in American Canyon, at the Chardonnay Golf Club where he was the in-house pastry chef or at his catering events.
Now, with the opening of a second location of his popular cafe, his pastries, breads, and other foods, handmade daily from scratch in small batches, are available in Napa.
Magsano’s purchase of the former Molinari Caffè at 828 Brown St., was both fortuitous and quick, only a couple of months in the making. Magsano said his goal is to “make sure that whatever we bring to Napa is made with love.”
“After running the business for four years, we also realized that a large portion of our customers are also coming from Napa city itself, so we decided to open another shop and bring us closer to the locals,” he said.
He described December 2019 as his month of transition. His approach to following in the footsteps of the previous venue is to continue to provide great coffee – that means his choice to use Moschetti French-style coffees and espresso from Vallejo – paired with classic bakery items like croissants and baguettes, but to also remain relevant by following the trends in modern patisserie and creating innovative offerings driven by Napa’s customer preferences.
The current staff in Napa is made up of Magsano, who is there to oversee the transition, training, development, and evolution from old to new, as well as some of his seasoned American Canyon employees, who will serve as mentors to new hires. He said he is building a team that “works from the heart.”
Magsano hails from the Philippines, where, as a young person, he held a number of positions in the food service industry, which allowed him to “develop and improve” his culinary palate, he said.
His varied work and academic background also includes the financial sector as a former loan officer, a degree in restaurant management, and pastry and confectionery studies at the former Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco.
For many years, Magsano worked and traveled between the United States and Japan, as he has family there. He owned and operated restaurants in Japan prior opening the Le Paris Artisan & Gourmet Café in American Canyon.
It was also in Japan where he originally discovered and fell in love with French pastries. When deciding on a theme for his café, it seemed natural to focus on them. “French baking has been passed on to generations and still hasn’t changed for the most part, and we wanted to do something classical with which many people are familiar,” he said.
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While the menu includes French pastries, Magsano also noted that what sets his baking and cooking apart from others is the mélange of the cultural and culinary influences of his life, which he called “French, American, and Filipino fusion.”
Most importantly, though, is that his pastries, breads, and other foods are handmade daily from scratch in small batches, which requires long days that begin in the wee hours of the morning, he said.
Some of the staff and customer favorites include Magsano’s Cropuffs – his signature croissant and cream puff creation – as well as the almond croissants and the adobo pork empañadas, which he insists is “an absolute must-try.”
The menu for the Napa location is still evolving, as Magsano learns who his new customers are and what they enjoy. He insists on serving “what you want to eat” and ensuring he makes enough of each menu item to meet customer demand. Other factors influencing the offerings include seasonality and availability of ingredients.
The café serves breakfast and lunch items such as butter croissants, breads like sourdough and French-style baguettes, the quiche of the day, the empañada of the day, a variety of sandwiches, as well as pastry confections like raspberry tiramisu, Cropuffs, ganache tarts, and macarons. A peek at a draft menu also includes morning and sticky buns, Danishes, brioche, scones, éclairs, cookies, custom cakes, tarts, cream puffs, cheesecake, and chocolate mousse.
A “standard” menu item, such as his avocado toast, shows Magsano’s approach to preparing his foods. He chose a slice of sourdough bread as the foundation for the avocado toast because it will support the layered stack of ingredients. However, as the ingredients intermingle with the bread, it naturally becomes more malleable, chewy, and replete with a plethora of flavors and textures offered by an optional runny egg, creamy avocado, thinly sliced smoked salmon, made-from-scratch crème fraîche, crunchy seeds, and the umami taste of balsamic.
In addition to the café, Magsano also offers catering for events and weddings. He makes wedding cakes and other confectionary delights. For example, he offers five kinds of bite-sized desserts.
The hours for the Napa location are Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. It is closed on Sundays. An official grand opening is planned for January 2020.