by Aimee Levitt
Yes, in case you happened to be wondering, Frank Loforte, owner, proprietor and head doughnut-maker at the Ex Cop Donut Shop (4584 Telegraph Road, south Saint Louis County; 314-894-2677) is, indeed, an ex-cop. So's his wife and business partner Linda. Both served in the City of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, she in the ninth division, he in the second, fifth, sixth and ninth. Three months ago, they started making doughnuts.
"I've always loved doughnuts," Loforte explains. "And doughnuts don't shoot at me."
Well, who could argue with that?
Loforte, it turns out, is the ideal person to explain the longstanding connection between cops and doughnuts.
"I asked seasoned vets on the force," he says, "guys who had been around for 40 years. They said that in the early years, there weren't a lot of cars, so most cops were on foot beats. In inclement weather, they would look for a place to sit that was open all night. The only places that were open were doughnut shops. They basically went there for shelter and coffee, but through the years, there grew up this association with the police and doughnuts."
"Sometimes," he continues, "when I would write someone a ticket, they'd say 'Don't write me a ticket, go get a doughnut.'" [Wait, other people thought up that line, too?] "I'd say, 'Once I write a ticket, I will.' You can't take it personally."
Though Loforte is most fond of the old-fashioned, the Ex Cop Donut Shop is becoming known around St. Louis and beyond for its bacon doughnut.
"It started with my wife," Loforte explains. "She follows trends. Bacon is trendy. Other restaurants are starting to incorporate it in milkshakes. This is our own spin on it."
Sadly, Gut Check was unable to taste this bit of culinary inspiration because we visited on a Tuesday and the bacon doughnuts are only available Thursday through Saturday. But we were able to try a few of the other specialty doughnuts: the Butterfinger, the espresso bean and the pistachio. Loforte's doughnuts are all delicate and light and the glaze has just the right amount of sweetness.
"The whole concept of doughnuts is becoming a lost art," says Loforte. "The rolling, the proofing..." Loforte studied the art at doughnut school in Manhattan, Kansas, which, to Gut Check, sounds like the most marvelous place on Earth. After he completed the three-week course, he met a doughnut-maker who had been in the business for 50 years and had no one to whom he could bequeath his doughnut-making expertise and, just as importantly, his doughnut-making equipment.
"He showed us some tricks," Loforte says. "There are lots of tricks in doughnut-making: temperature, humidity. There are a lot of variables that can affect the dough."
Loforte has a lot of time to ponder the art and science of doughnut-making. He starts making the doughnuts around 10 p.m.; by the time Gut Check dropped in, he'd been working for about fourteen hours.
"We're going to try to offer more variety," he says. Like Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon, which has become infamous for making doughnuts topped with breakfast cereal or in the shape of monsters and various adult themes?
"No, no. Voodoo wouldn't work here. We're more conservative. We're not going to make a doughnut that looks like it's been stabbed with jelly coming out. Well, maybe for Halloween. In Portland, it's like Halloween every day. We're edgy, but not that edgy."
Ex Cop Donuts also serves Kaldi's coffee and Italian pastries, made from old family recipes. (Loforte and his parents were born in Sicily.)
"I hope everyone who comes in recognizes our hard work," he says. "That's where the quality comes in. If we were going to do it the easy way, we'd be using frozen doughnuts." Editor's note: This article originally used the term "cock-and-balls" to describe some of the doughnut creations at Portland's Voodoo Donuts. Those words were removed from the body of the story per Mr. Loforte's concern that readers would somehow think he used such a vile and despicable term and that it would ruin his business. For the record, Loforte did not utter those words. And, for the record, we still like his donuts.