Italian Bakery returns to its roots with rebuilt store in Chinatown

· The Pulse

The Italian Bakery is finally ready to re-open in Chinatown with a brand-new building.

A fire devastated the original structure in 2020, after the company's Beverly site had to be rebuilt after a fire in 2016. While undertaking another major construction project so soon was not ideal, owner Rosaly DeVenz said doing so was the only option.

"My parents (founders Antonio and Aurora Frattin) started this bakery here in 1962, and this was their home," DeVenz told Taproot. "We rebuilt it for them."

Construction was supposed to last only a year, but due to COVID-19, materials shortages, and contractor challenges, the timeline extended to three years. Unfortunately, both Antonio and Aurora passed away in 2022 and were not able to see the final result. The new build at 10644 97 Street NW included a customized apartment unit above the bakery that was intended for them. Still, DeVenz knows her parents would be pleased with the outcome.

"They would be happy that we rebuilt in this neighbourhood and will step up our game," said DeVenz. "You have to make out of the rubble like a phoenix rising, and make it bigger and better."

DeVenz is aiming for a soft opening later in September. Although the footprint of the new building is only slightly larger than the previous one, the design has significantly enlarged the retail area. This will allow the location to stock fresh produce, milk, eggs, and more grocery items than before, as well as accommodate a larger deli.

Rosaly DeVenz stands inside the rebuilt Italian Bakery, with tables and chairs stacked beside her and shelves behind

Italian Bakery owner Rosaly DeVenz says after a lot of ups and downs, Chinatown is "due for an up." (Sharon Yeo/Flickr)

In addition, DeVenz is excited about an expanded food menu. The bakery's popular personalized sandwiches will be back, and new dine-in options will include fresh pasta, pizzas, soup, salads, and gelato, all made on-site. The shop will also offer a variety of prepared heat-and-serve meals, made in-house and by other local businesses such as Pazzo Pazzo and Sorrentino's. While most of the bakery items will be produced at the larger facility in Beverly, DeVenz promised that doughnuts, Danishes, and buns will be made on location.

DeVenz acknowledged that the menu will be somewhat of an experiment at the start, given the business's lengthy absence from the area. "The neighbourhood's changed, our clientele has changed," said DeVenz. "But we hope that bringing new people in through the store might help revitalize Chinatown."

With that in mind, the shop has increased its seating area for customers, intended for shoppers to enjoy a meal or a drink from the café. "What we're trying to do is create a place to go sit down and go for coffee," said DeVenz. "After the pandemic, I think people are missing environments to socialize."

In an effort to appeal to a broader customer base, DeVenz had an indoor bocce ball court installed. "You have to have 'Instagrammable moments' nowadays," laughed DeVenz. "We wanted to do something different and bring something that instigates memories for people and their families."

DeVenz is aware that some folks may be avoiding Chinatown because of the negativity surrounding the area. "People shouldn't be scared," she said. "The news puts images into people's minds. This neighbourhood has had a lot of ups and downs. We're due for an up."