As the famous writer, Miguel de Cervantes said in Don Quixote, “All sorrows are less with bread,” and based on the success of the many bread bakeries and wholesalers in The Bronx, it is safe to say, most of the general public would have to agree.
For nearly 100 years, less than a handful of bread bakeries, located right here in The Bronx, have been producing fresh bread daily and supplying stores, restaurants, delis and bodegas regularly with a constant supply of this beloved and age old sustenance.
Four Bronx bakeries in particular, have built their reputation and fame in the area over the past century, known by name throughout the neighborhoods for which their bread can be found. Take for example, the South Bronx and Washington Heights, where Prince Bread has been an important staple since the 1970’s and ‘80’s.
Personally speaking, I have my own very personal memories of this Bronx-made bread from my days as a college student at Fordham University. Spending my sophomore year summer living on Arthur Avenue to attend classes, I’ll never forget the smell that filled the air in the wee hours of the morning of the baking bread from Prince Bakery on Belmont Avenue in Little Italy.
In fact, on those “mornings” when we strolled home from a late night out at the bars, we would make a pit stop on our way home to purchase a loaf or two of the freshly-baked bread, still hot and steamy.
And, I’m not the only one whose youth was filled with “Prince bread” memories. Alexandra Maruri, founder of Bronx Historical Tours recalls, “I remember going to the local bodega after school and ordering a spiced ham and cheese hero. Spiced ham and American cheese was the sandwich of the times and all the kids ordered it - on Prince bread with extra mayo.”
Prince Bakery was actually described best by a reviewer on Yelp, who is quoted as saying, “Prince Bakery supplies the Bodegas of the Bronx and Washington Heights with some quality bread. Started by Johnny Prince, this bakery is the talk of the hood. Ask any resident of any hood in The Heights and The Bronx who makes the best bread and the inevitable answer will be Prince.”
Another Belmont section based bakery, with a fifty year history is Terranova Bakery. Founded in 1967 by Pietro “Peter” Terranova, with the goal of honoring old world baking methods, Terranova earned the proud distinction of “Top Bread in New York City” by Zagat.
The young Terranova arrived in America from Sicily in 1961, settling in the Little Italy section of the Bronx, where he began working at a local bakery sweeping the floors. Learning the craft and trade of bread making, Peter bought the business in October 1967, giving birth to Terranova Bakery on 187th Street.
With the addition of his brother Gandolfo in 1969 and the tireless efforts of their respective wives, Terranova Bakery has grown into a steady supplier of bread throughout the North and East Bronx and Westchester County, which includes significant distribution to Italian restaurants.
DID YOU KNOW...
THE WONDERS OF WONDER BREAD
The Ward Bread Company, founded by Irish immigrant
Hugh Ward in 1849 on the Lower East Side, was a major
company with factories all over the country,
including one in Brooklyn and in The Bronx.
In the early 20th century, the company revolutionized
the baking process, employing new technology
to bake bread in a mechanized assembly line.
In the 1920s, Hugh’s grandson William attempted
to monopolize the American baking market,
using dirty business tactics.
To distance itself from the negative press
and its tarnished reputation, the company
assumed the name of one of the companies it acquired:
Wonder Bakeries, makers of Wonder bread.
Going back a bit further to the 1920’s, The Bronx has two historic bread makers, who are part of the fabric of the Borough. These include Nicosia’s Original Bronx Bread Company and Zaro's Family Bakery.
A bread tradition that started in 1925 on a side street in Harlem, Nicosia’s Original Bronx Bread Company is now a 4 generation business. According to their website, “Calogero Nicosia began cultivating his passion for bread in the foothills of a town in Sicily, Santa Caterina. It was here that the tradition began.”
Made fresh daily, their bread is “slowly fermented and baked to a light golden color to enhance flavor.” Clearly, they have a winning formula having served the communities of the North and East Bronx, as well as Westchester for nearly 100 years, which appears to have no end in sight for the family-run bread company based on Burke Avenue.
And if bread is a family tradition, so is the business of bread making, as is the case withZaro's Family Bakery. Opening the doors to his first bakery in The Bronx in 1927, Joseph Zaro started a business based on great customer service. According to their website, “Our business is inseparable from our family—great customer service is a personal Zaro family mission.
Today, that original Bronx location has grown into a bakery chain with 11 stores throughout the New York City metropolitan area, which even extends to New Jersey and casts a net even further with its wholesale business. Here in The Bronx, Zaros distributes through its neighborhood pastry shop as well as the small coffee shops within Montefiore Hospital.
Eighty-five years since Joseph Zaro came to America, Zaro's is a fourth-generation family-owned and operated business.
Till next time,
Elisa is a travel blogger and freelance writer. She is co-founder of TravelinCousins.com travel blog and writes a weekly column for ThisIsTheBronx.info.