FALMOUTH — A wave of customers arrived at the opening of the bakery-cafe Maison Villatte in November, but the crowds weren’t a surprise. French-born owner Boris Villatte had already built a reputation on Cape Cod for his breads at Wellfleet’s PB Boulangerie, where he was co-owner. Villatte has his own patisserie-boulangerie now and patrons are standing in line for golden, crusty baguettes and buttery croissants.
Wood beams line the ceiling of the spacious cafe and hefty, basketweave Spanish floor tiles warm the room. Customers can choose from an array of breads: chewy sourdoughs; grainy and crusty rustics made with rye, spelt, and buckwheat; loaves flavored with bacon and cheese, raisins, or morsels of white chocolate; and dense, 4-pound rounds slashed across the crust, fashioned after the bread of Poilane, the legendary Parisian baker. For these and other loaves, Villatte uses a mixture he blends from organic stoneground flours and grains to create a sourdough starter. “It makes everything more flavorful, lighter, and rise better,” says Villatte.
A youthful 34, the baker grew up in the Loire Valley and as a teenager started apprenticing in restaurants. “Even when I was 16, I knew one day I will have my own place,” he says. Villatte developed his artistry under Eric Kayser, an internationally known French baker with scores of shops around the globe. For six years, Villatte traveled to Tokyo, Istanbul, and Athens opening boulangeries for Kayser. “We still keep in touch,” says Villatte. He also did a stint as a baker in a Paris restaurant owned by celebrity chef Alain Ducasse.
A sleek glass case is filled with rows of eclairs, fruit tartlets, napoleons, and other classic French pastries, which sit alongside quiches and sandwiches. Look past the case toward the open kitchen and you’ll see a 7,000-pound Italian oven capable of baking 250 loaves at a time. An irresistible sweet fragrance — that of baking dough — wafts from this giant.
Also in the kitchen, Stephane Gromil is in charge of creating the mini chocolate mousse cakes and other specialties. Villatte brought Gromil, 35, from France to be his right-hand man. “This is a dream,” Gromil says in French. Like Villatte, he aspired to live and work near the ocean and away from a bustling city.
On a recent morning, as sun shines through the picture window looking out toward Falmouth’s village green, the light illuminates butter-colored walls. Women sit and chat over coffee and crispy pain au chocolat that melt in your mouth. A larger table, filled with hungry cyclists warming up from the cold, is covered with an assortment of sweet indulgences and cappuccinos.
The room sits 20 and the seats are filled. Villatte says he sells up to 1,000 croissants on a hectic day. “There are a lot of foodies here.”
With all the tables full in the middle of winter, Villatte will have to rethink what he does when the throngs of summer vacationers descend on the town.
He has thought about it. “I’m hiring,” he says.
Maison Villatte 267 Main St., Falmouth, 774-255-1855.Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.