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LaSalle Bakery Prepares Zeppole For The Masses

Monday, March 18, 2013

 

LaSalle Bakery is gearing up for one of Rhode Island's favorite holidays.

It's almost St. Joseph's Day, Rhode Island, and you know what that means–it's zeppole season! And word on the street is that if you want the best in town, LaSalle Bakery is the place to go. This family-owned bakery has been hard at work for weeks preparing for the big day.

A zeppola (the singular form of the plural zeppole) is a traditional Italian treat consisting of baked or fried Choux pastry (Choux pastries are also used to make cream puffs, éclairs, and profiteroles) filled with pastry cream or other fillings, topped with powdered sugar and a maraschino cherry. It's most popularly eaten on St. Joseph's Day, a Catholic holiday celebrated on March 19. LaSalle Bakery offers three flavors: Traditional Italian, Chocolate Mousse, and Bailey's Irish Cream.

Come hell or high water

Behind Christmas, St. Joseph's Day is the biggest holiday of the year for the bakery, owned by Michael Manni and his family for 38 years. "People are in here at 5:30 in the morning for zeppole," says John Manni, Director of Marketing and Sales as well as son of the bakery's owner.

LaSalle Bakery begins selling the zeppole every year on February 1 and ends the Saturday before Easter. During the days in between, the bakery produces and sells thousands of the traditional pastries to eager customers. "It's one of those holidays," says Production Manager Michael Delegrada. "They walk in the door and they don't want a muffin, they don't want a danish, they want a zeppola."

On a day when Rhode Island was hit with a nasty snowstorm, the bakery had sold about 500 zeppole by 10am. "They go quick because we don't make them all year round, and everyone knows that March is time for zeppole," says Delegrada. But don't try to order one after Easter, because LaSalle is quite strict about their cut-off date. Why? Delegrada likens the bakery's big day to Christmas. "It's one of those things that comes once a year. It's like Christmas. You're getting your Christmas gift today and that's it. Zeppole, we want it just for that time."

Manni treats his zeppola like a Christmas gift, too. "I only eat one a year. Every single year I save it–at the end of the season I just have one. I'm like, okay, that one right there. Traditional zeppola. I'm happy. That's it." Or is he...? "Alright, I lied. I screw up with the party-sized ones." That's okay John, you can never have just one of anything party-sized.

Good investment

No one knows the true origin of the zeppola, but there are plenty of stories to go around.

Everything else takes a back seat to zeppole production as LaSalle prepares for game day. Extra hands are crucial for the pastries and cream fillings made from scratch. Luckily, the bakery has incorporated machinery into their business to help with the workload. Previously, the pastries were made by hand, requiring constant stirring and several other very laborious processes. "I'd probably be in shape!" jokes Manni. But even with the help of machinery customized to fit these purposes, zeppole season is tough on everyone. This is another reason that the treat's production is kept to once a year. "It's grueling. It's a tough thing to make year-round."

The machines also help to make sure that LaSalle is able to keep up with rest of its products, which are as delicious and in-demand as ever. With the craziness of the season, Manni stresses the importance of keeping everything in balance. "Over the years we've thankfully changed with the times. The business is changed. Years ago it was just a bakery. We're still a full-scale bakery, but now we've got the café side and all this new stuff going on. Years ago bakeries never sold coffee. Now we sell coffee and sandwiches, but we still make birthday cakes and we do bread. It's like juggling."

LaSalle Bakery is located at 685 Admiral Street and at 993 Smith Street, Providence. Click here for more info and hours.

 

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