Dolce & Ciabatta Brings a Taste of Europe to Leesburg

Godfrey McKenzie’s passion for baking started in his mother’s kitchen in Jamaica and has taken him around the world. Now, McKenzie and his wife Tatiana are making a longtime dream come true with the opening Dolce & Ciabatta in Leesburg.

The bakery has been open for just three weeks in the Kings Corner retail center along Catoctin Circle. But with its clever name, sleek orange and chrome interior and truly delicious breads and pastries, Dolce is already creating plenty of buzz with locals.

“I think people are very excited we’re here,” Tatiana McKenzie said. “It’s something different and they understand this.”

The raves are flowing in for master baker Godfrey McKenzie’s artisan creations.

McKenzie, 47, remembers Friday baking days as a kid in Jamaica, when his mother would offer treats to neighbors who were suffering under the country’s economic downturn in the 1970s.

“My true love for pastry has been in me since I was a child,” he said.

And McKenzie followed his passion after emigrating to Miami with his family as a teen. He scored a job out of high school washing pans and floors in bakery near his home, and that was when his decade-long apprenticeship with his mentor, noted South Florida master baker Keith Rinaldi, began.

McKenzie started out on the bottom rung and worked his way up to making bread when Rinaldi spotted his talent.

Dolce & Ciabatta Bakery Café Owner Godfrey McKenzie puts a few finishing touches on some pastries before loading them into the oven.
[Patrick Szabo/Loudoun Now]
“One day he looked at me and said, ‘You have a good eye—you’re going to be a pastry chef,’” McKenzie recalled. And the European-style apprenticeship was more valuable than any formal classes he’s taken, he said. “It was more than culinary school. I’ve taken a lot of classes at different schools, but those classes were not even close to what he taught me.”

McKenzie followed Rinaldi to the Hilton in Reno, NV, before earning a pastry chef position with a high end European cruise line based in Monaco. That experience eventually led him to Northern Virginia when McKenzie’s European connections landed him a job in the research and development arm of pastry giant Vie De France in Tysons Corner in 2012.

Shortly after starting his job developing a range of pastry products for big name retailers and restaurants with Vie De France, McKenzie met Tatiana, a native of Russia also working in the DC area. The couple now live in Sterling with their two young children.

And while his nearly seven-year industrial foodservice R&D job was rewarding, McKenzie dreamed of opening his own shop. The couple was on the hunt for the right space to make the jump when they heard through friends that the Layered Cake Patisserie, which previously occupied the Catoctin Circle space, had closed.

The McKenzies jumped on the space during the summer and have spent the past three months redoing the interior with a warm and welcoming flair and bringing in specialized equipment, including a stone hearth oven from Germany, to make old-school artisan breads and authentic croissants and pastries.

With its fresh look and a breakfast and lunch menu that includes creative sandwiches, the bakery is already a hotspot, with a weekday lunchtime buzz and lines out the door on weekend mornings.

Dolce & Ciabatta Bakery Café Owners Tatiana McKenzie grabs a pastry for a customer during the morning rush.
[Patrick Szabo/Loudoun Now]
Things are going so well in Leesburg that the couple is hoping to expand the brand throughout Northern Virginia and beyond with business partner Bo Biabani.

With Godfrey working the dough, Tatiana managing the business and a team of about 20 around-the-clock employees, the bakery is a hit. And while visitors are greeted with gorgeous cases full of handmade European pastries, artisan breads are McKenzie’s true love, and the bakery’s specially designed bread racks look like they’re straight out of Paris.

“This is his passion. When he molds the bread and makes the dough, I look in his eyes and I see so much love,” Tatiana said. Not a lot of people do what they’re passionate about. … It makes him so happy. It really takes a special person to take these ingredients and make this art.”

And McKenzie still embraces the craft as learned from his Miami mentor, including fermenting the dough for 18 hours.

“I could make bread all week with no sleep. … There’s nothing as magical as taking flour, water yeast and salt and ending up with something that you can eat, and it’s beautiful,” McKenzie said. “Making bread is an art and there are no shortcuts about it.”

jmercker@loudounnow.com

Dolce & Ciabatta Bakery Café Owners Godfrey and Tatiana McKenzie take a moment during the morning rush to stand alongside their team.

3 thoughts on “Dolce & Ciabatta Brings a Taste of Europe to Leesburg

  • 2018-10-25 at 12:18 pm
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    I hope they make it, but so far, and maybe that’s the Frenchman in me speaking, I have been unimpressed. I went there a couple of times in the morning (8 AM, 8:30 AM and 9AM).

    Each time I showed up, there was no bread on the shelves and each time I was told it would be ready “in about 30 minutes”. For now I still get delicious Ciabattas from South Street Under. They have them out of the oven every day without fault by 8AM.

    The pastries are decent but dry. The factory made croissants and chocolate croissants from Starbucks are better than Dolce & Ciabatta’s.

    European bakers are up at 4AM every morning to have bread ready at 7AM when the bakery opens and their pastries are a delight. Dolce & Ciabatta’s does not qualify as a “European bakery” just yet.

    I hope these are just growing pains and they’ll get where they need to be.

    • 2018-10-25 at 4:41 pm
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      Thank you for taking time and expressing your opinion. We regret that you were unimpressed with Dolce & Ciabatta.

      Our bakers start their shift at midnight. The bread is mixed the day before and goes through a long, 18 to 24 hours fermentation process before being baked in the special stone heart oven every morning. End result is crusty, flavorful, artisan European quality bread. However, since we have been opened for only a couple of weeks, our baking crew is still going through the training, this is the reason we were a little late for morning breads. I would assume the times you came in were during our soft opening week. This past week we had breads out on the shelf at opening time every morning, along with a wide variety of viennoiseries and morning pastries.

      I don’t have any comment on Starbucks croissants to be better than ours – every man to his taste. All I can say is that our croissants are made with the highest quality imported European butter. They are flaky, buttery and light, made from scratch every morning. I am sorry but they just cannot be compared to factory made croissants. It is your opinion and we appreciate it. Tastes differ.

      We feel blessed and honored to be a part of this community, we strive for the best quality products. So far, we received very positive feedback and we will continue working on serving the community with all our passion and love for what we do. Thank you. Sincerely, Tatiana Mckenzie, Bakery Manager.

      • 2018-10-25 at 5:48 pm
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        I’ll definitely try again. We can’t have enough bakeries in the area! Thanks for the reply.

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