Just before Easter, when we went to visit Roma’s Bakery on 312 Main Street, the shop was full of the season’s typical Italian specialties. Many of them, like struffoli and casatielli, are characteristic of the Naples area just a few miles south of Gaeta. Other seasonal specialties included pastiera, pizza ghena, pizza rustica and Easter bread.This year marks the 40th anniversary of Roma’s Bakery, which was opened by Gaetano (who goes by “Guy”) in 1972, after several years of working for different bakers in the Boston area.
“I came from Gaeta in 1962, when I was 15 years old,” he says. “My parents came to Somerville in 1958, but there was a law in those days that said parents couldn’t bring their children with them.”
But Guy eventually made it to the United States, where he reunited with his father Michael and his mother Maria.“My father was a bricklayer and my mother, who had never worked, went to a shoe factory. Then I got into baking.”
Guy’s start in the baking world came just before his 16th birthday, when he went to pick out a cake along with his father.
“My father took me to La Contessa Bakery in Somerville. The owner, Joe Magliaro, asked if I wanted to work with him,” says Guy. “That’s how I got into baking.”
After five years working at La Contessa Bakery, Guy tried something different and went to work for Boston College.“I stayed there for a few months but was really missing work in a bakery. Then in 1969, someone told me Caffè Roma on Hanover Street was looking for a baker. I went right away. It was a huge place.”
Guy stayed at Caffè Roma for almost two years, until he started getting suggestions to open a bakery in Woburn.
“I didn’t even know where Woburn was back then,” he says, laughing. “People were telling me there was a need for a bakery there, so I decided to give it a shot. I went to see a good spot for a bakery and found the building we are currently in. On the corner there used to be a bicycle shop. That’s where I opened my shop the first time.”The Woburn building where Roma’s Bakery has been since 1972 is a historical building. Erected in the 1880s, the so-called “Dow Block” housed at one time or another the post office, the Daily Times and the Cooperative Bank, according to Kathleen M. O’Doherty’s book “Woburn.” A fire in the 1930s reduced the building from four stories to one, as it still stands today.
Roma’s initially opened on the corner. All the bakery equipment was bought at an auction in Quincy for $5,000, which was loaned to Guy from other baker friends.
“Business was good from the very start,” says Guy. “We still make the things we started off with back then: Cannoli, sfogliatelle, bread, pastries, cakes and so much more.”
Several years after starting the business, Guy bought the entire block and in 1987 transferred his shop just a few doors down, to the other end of the street, where he could hold a larger bakery.Guy’s son Michael remembers those days well. “I was 13 when we moved to the new location. I was brought in to help.”
Michael ended up staying there and he was soon joined by his sisters Vanessa and Guylyn. Vanessa takes care of the deli section of the store, which was opened in 2010, while Guylyn helps out front.
“In 2006, we opened another store in Billerica,” says Guy. “We’ve had a good business because it’s a family business. We’re all very close, and we are very close to our customers. That’s the reason we’ve been in business for 40 years.”
For more information about Roma’s Bakery visit their Facebook page.