A Century of American Dreaming...
Like many in the late 19th century, Mario and Rose Madonia emigrated from Italy. Hailing from a small town outside of Palermo, Sicily called Monreale, they sought a better life in the New World. When they arrived, they settled in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx, now known as “Little Italy in the Bronx.” This community evolved around the many Italian stone masons who were building the Bronx Zoo at the turn of the century. And of course, food was a priority! What makes this neighborhood and our story unique is that the same families continue to run many of the businesses in Little Italy in the Bronx more than 100 years later.
Mario and Rose opened Madonia's Bakery in 1918, with Mario baking and delivering bread while Rose worked the front of the store. Despite their long work days, they raised four children: Concetta, Frank, Teresa, and Peter. Now Peter, who later ran the bakery with his brother Frank, was literally born into the business. On May 15th, 1924, Rose was six months pregnant with her fourth child and working behind the counter, when a car crashed through the front glass window. Rose went into shock, causing premature labor and delivered her child in the bakery. Not expecting this child to survive, and without access to modern day healthcare, they took a shoebox lined with cotton and placed the tiny child inside and set it by the oven, creating a homemade incubator. Peter Madonia was determined to survive. And so, eleven days later when it was clear the baby would live, Rose and Mario registered him with the Health Department.
Peter and his brother Frank were the second generation owners of Madonia's Bakery, taking over from Mario in the early 1960’s. They continued baking bread in the tradition of their father, but they also introduced a line of cookies and biscotti. Pete’s oldest son Mario finished college and decided he wanted to be part of the business as well, and joined Frank and Pete in the late 1970’s. Mario expanded our offering to include a full line of cookies and biscotti, and some of the first specialty breads that have become a trademark of Madonia's Bakery.
And so, Mario became the third generation owner in the early 1980s. While keeping the traditional line of Italian breads just like his namesake grandfather, Mario had a vision for expansion. In 1983, he doubled the size of the store and production space with the intention of continuing to expand the product line. But in 1988 tragedy struck. At 38 years of age, Mario was killed in a car accident within walking distance of the bakery. This was a seminal moment for what was now a 70-year-old family business.
However, the Madonia's are a strong family. Pete’s second son Peter, and his sister Janet, both of whom had other successful careers at the time, stepped in along with their father, who came out of retirement, to continue the business during this difficult time. Ultimately, Peter Jr. took over the third generation role while Janet went back to her law practice.
Peter ran the business from 1988 through 1994, but he knew he needed help in order to grow. He was lucky to find the perfect partner in Charles LaLima. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Charlie started working in a bakery at the age of 13 and never left the business. He learned the tricks of the trade at the hands of some great old world bakers. Charlie came to Madonia's Bakery with that knowledge and helped Peter grow the business by dramatically expanding the product line, focusing on Mario’s vision for a full line of specialty breads.
That’s where we find ourselves today, twenty-four years later. If you look at our menu, you will find a prolific line of specialty breads, most notably our signature olive bread, in addition to a full line of cookies, biscotti, and breakfast products, which tell the story of the evolution of this family business through its baked goods. Over the past century, three things have remained constant: the family name and ownership, a commitment to continuing to make bread by hand (just like Grandpa did), and using only the best ingredients. We know that when you take our product home, you're using it to feed your family -- and nothing is more important to us than family.
Our motto is:
“Our family feeding your family for 3 generations”
Thank you for your support over these 100 years.