Greater New Haven is Becoming a Foodie Paradise and A Legion of Great, and Even Some Historic, Bakers Are Leading The Charge
Once a staple of the dinner table, freshly baked bread is now a special occasion food, one reserved for holidays and special dinners, nights out on the town, and those weekends when you’re fortunate enough to stumble on the right farmer’s market stand or the neighborhood that still boasts a local bakery. In certain regions of the world, take Europe or Latin America for example, it’s nearly impossible to find a neighborhood without at least one bakery, but in this neck of the woods, where conveniences like buying in bulk and one-stop shopping are prized, our neighborhood bakeries won’t be making a comeback en masse anytime soon.
That doesn’t mean that without a little bit of hunting, you won’t be able to find a fresh-baked, hot-out-of-the oven ciabatta roll, loaf of pumpernickel, or even a Swedish coffee bread. New Havenites are lucky because decades of bread-baking tradition run deep in this town and the culinary know-how of fermenting, kneading, stretching, braiding, and folding are skills that thrive in certain spots; some have even passed this expertise onto others, giving birth to some newcomers that are making a name for themselves as local “bread-winners.”
365 Grand Avenue, New Haven, CT
Years in Business: 89
Favorite Bread: Go with the classic loaf of French. It makes an amazing sandwich.
What Foodies Like: You can get Apicella’s bread at a lot of local supermarkets, but you can’t get their stuffed breads anywhere but their Fair Haven storefront. Try the eggplant parmigiana or the broccoli.
Amount of Bread Baked Daily: 550 dozen rolls, 4,000-5,000 loaves of bread, 130-140 dozen grinders.
How They Broke into the Bread Business: Al Cimino began working after-school for the bakery at the young age of 14. After graduating, he was lured to Massachusetts for a better paying job as bakery assistant supervisor at Hostess. In 1976, he was extended an offer by the previous owner of Apicella’s to buy the bakery, which was then located at 64 Houston Street and about the size of a two-car garage. Cimino recalls the transition back to Connecticut as seamless, especially because Cimino’s wife was able to live close to her family again. In the early ‘80s, the operation moved to its current Fair Haven location on Grand Ave. and neighborhood demand created an expansion in 1984 that now includes a bustling storefront where customers can get bread, specialty stuffed breads, morning pastries, and coffee.
The Bread Basket
25 Putnam Ave, Hamden
Years in Business: 24
Employees: Two--a father and daughter run this business together
Favorite Bread: The organic whole wheat, made with flour sourced from local natural grocer, Thyme and Season
What foodies like: While more on the savory side, the Swedish coffee cake, which some customers refer to as the “cardamom bread,” is a huge hit, especially during the holidays.
How They Broke into the Bread Business: Andrew and Amy Lucibello, the father and daughter team behind The Bread Basket, have prided themselves in being a small neighborhood bakery for more than two decades. Together, the two bake their bread, rolls, muffins and other assorted pastries fresh daily from their cozy store in the Whitneyville section of Hamden. Between Halloween and Christmas time, they can barely keep their house specialty, a handcrafted Swedish coffee cake, on the shelves. In the week leading up to Christmas, they have sold more than 200 loaves of this rare specialty bread in one day.
Bread and Chocolate
2457 Whitney Avenue, Hamden
Years in Business: 10
Favorite bread: Ciabatta
What Foodies Like: If you have breakfast or lunch in their bakery, all of their sandwiches, including their egg and cheese, are served on their famous ciabatta bread. You can find Bread and Chocolate breads served by local Hamden restaurants like Luce and Mickey’s, but, according tomanager Tiana Zapata, the company wants to stay regional so that they don’t ever have to sacrifice their recipes or quality of their breads.
How They Broke into the Bread Business: Before opening their bakery/cafe in Hamden, the husband-and-wife team behind Bread and Chocolate both worked at a local New Haven bakery where they met and fell in love. The Zapatas combined their skills as bread-maker and pastry chef to open the store on Whitney Avenue. Today, the original store hosts an expanded cafe space, and a bakery located on Sherman Avenue where their wholesale baking is done into the wee hours of the morning. Bread and Chocolate continues to be a family-run business with both of the couple’s daughters involved in running the day-to-day operations of the bakery.
Plans for the Future: The Zapata family is opening a second store in Old Saybrook.
Chestnut Fine Foods & Confections
1012 State Street, New Haven,
Years in Business: 30 years
Employees: 6 full-time, 6 part-time, catering staff varies
Favorite bread: Baguettes
What Foodies Like: The cafe on State Street has a constantly rotating array of fresh-baked breads. On the afternoon we visited, they had a delicious new loaf with cranberry, lavender, and walnut.
How They Broke into the Bread Business: While most of Chestnut’s business involves catering for local businesses, Yale, area non-profits, weddings, and a variety of private functions, their 24-seat cafe on State Street offers fresh-baked loaves of bread for sale such as Sesame Whole Wheat and Cranberry Lavender Walnut, along with a deli case full of prepared foods such as lasagna, salads, and pesto penne for take out.
Plans for the Future: Fred and Patty Walker, owners of Chestnut Fine Foods, are looking to expand their cafe hours thanks to their new neighbor, the Corsair, a luxury 235-unit apartment.
169 Washington Avenue, New Haven
Years in Business: 116
Favorite bread: Wheat and artisan breads, and Lupi’s Rye bread is some of the best you can get outside New York.
What Foodies Like: The variety of bread that they offer at their storefront is as fresh as you can get and reasonably priced, especially if you get the “day old” bread.
How They Broke into the Bread Business: The business was started by their grandparents on Dixwell Avenue in the Highwood section of Hamden and eventually run by four brothers: Peter (Junior), Rudolph, William, and Johnny. In 1956 the four brothers purchased Legna Bakery and the business was known as Lupi’s Legna Bakery. In 1983 Lupi’s Bakery purchased a well known Hill Section bakery in New Haven, Marchigiano Bakery. Today, Lupi’s Bakery is run by Peter Lupi III and Larry Lupi, and still operates at 169 Washington Avenue in New Haven. A small storefront on Washington Ave. sells a variety of breads such as rye, pumpernickel, semolina, and dinner rolls.