Are you Italian? If you’re reading this article, there’s a one in five chance you are. According to a recent U.S. Census report, nearly 20 percent of Connecticut residents say they are of Italian heritage. New Jersey had 17 percent, while New York had 14 percent. To recognize the many Italians living right here in Meriden, Patch recently visited an Italian bakery in town for "It’s Your Business."
Marianna’s Belltop Bakery has been a staple on West Main Street for the past 25 years. It specializes in Italian breads and desserts- everything from its famous cannolis, to pies and cakes, to stuffoli- which is a crisp fried pastry puff. And don’t forget about those popular Italian rainbow cookies!
The owners of the bakery are Paul and Irene Bongiovanni. Paul was born in Italy and later moved to Connecticut. Irene was born and raised in Hartford. She says the bakery is like a taste of home for Paul.
The couple, who has been married for 38 years, work side by side seven days a week. “Like any spouse or business partner, we can sometimes get on each other’s nerves,” admits Irene. “But most times it’s enjoyable because we’re good friends.”
The holidays are an especially busy time for the bakery when people come in looking for that special sweet treat. Pumpkin pie is the favorite at Thanksgiving and at Christmas it’s all about cannolis. What about Easter? Irene says Italian ham and ricotta pies are in demand this time of year.
“We have the most loyal customers,” says Irene. “We have had people coming in since we opened in 1985. They have become like family to us.”
Antonio Papandrea, 31, has been going to Marianna’s since he was a kid. He says his favorite dessert is the lobster tail—a pastry filled with Italian cheese that resembles its namesake. “I love the consistency of the filling and the flaky outside,” he says.
When Paul and Irene aren’t busy working, they enjoy going to New York City. They have four grown children and two grandkids.
For more information about Marianna’s Belltop Bakery call: (203) 238-0159
A Lesson In Italian
sweet = dolce
cookie = biscotto
cake = torta
bread = pane