Lauren Parsons and Franco Villalva opened To Be Frank in a Collingwood backstreet in December 2019. The bakery quickly became known for its play on facturas, an Argentinian pastry from Villalva’s childhood, as well as slow-fermented breads, laminated pastries and Ted Lasso shortbread biscuits (named for the popular TV show).
This past weekend Parsons and Villalva, co-owners and life partners, opened their second To Be Frank location. The new spot, on Riddell Parade in Elsternwick, brings treats known and loved by fans of the original location alongside a new range of focaccias and Elsternwick-only specials.
While the compact Collingwood location is tucked away behind Johnson and Smith streets, this new store is much bigger and not quite as hidden. It has huge glass windows, allowing passers-by to spot pastry chefs as they work in the kitchen. The interiors feature the heavy timber so prominent in Collingwood location.
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The Elsternwick pastry offering is slightly more refined than what you’ll typically find in Collingwood, Parsons says, but the real hero south side is the focaccia: there will be three to four loaded options available each day. It might be prosciutto, fior di latte, rocket and balsamic one day, or pear, walnut and gorgonzola another. We also like the sound of a three cheese, garlic and herbs number. (For now, only the classic rosemary and sea salt focaccia is on offer north of the river).
There are also special pastries made just for Elsternwick, including a hazelnut babka perfected over many months, which has been “the biggest hit, selling out first” every day, Parsons says. A lemon-passion danish – a twist on the Collingwood store’s carrot-cake danish – is loaded with lemon-passionfruit curd, ginger crumble and tarragon-white-chocolate ganache.
While the babka has been Elsternwick’s bestseller so far, the crowd here seem “more interested in trying our breads and learning about all the breads we make, requesting our rye, wholemeal breads and focaccias”.
The Elsternwick store is currently open Wednesday to Sunday, with plans to extend to a seven-day week down the line. There’s no indoor seating, but Parsons and Villalva say they’ll add outdoor seating soon. In the meantime, the park opposite the bakery makes for a great spot to enjoy a coffee and focaccia.
As in Collingwood, Parsons and Villalva will be guided by the wants of the community – like the time they cut a dulce de leche pastry from the menu and, after local outcry, swiftly returned it as a permanent item. In Elsternwick, Parsons and Villalva say locals have already rallied around the venue, and they’re already making requests: one woman brought Villalva her favourite challah and asked him to add a To Be Frank version to the menu.