“My entire life, I have never worked during the day,” says Bart, who has owned the bakery on 158 Salem Street for over 10 years. At the age of 12, when his family moved from his native Foggia to Boston’s North End, Bart started the trade of bread baking… and never let go.
The year was 1960, and Boschetto Bakery had been around for over half a century. Founded in the late 1800s by Avellino-native Andrew Boschetto, the bakery had been sold to Raffaello “Ralph” Bruno in the late ’50s. The new owner took Bart under his wing and taught him all he knows about making bread.“I grew up in here,” says Bart. “Between 12 and 16 I still went to school, but I’d go to the bakery right after and work until midnight, then I’d get some sleep and then back to school.”
The hard work Bart put into the bakery paid off, and he bought the business from Bruno in the 1990s.
The bakery might not have a glamorous appearance out front, where several types of bread are sold alongside dozens of biscotti and cookies, all made with old Italian recipes handed down from generation to generation.
The true magic of the bakery is in the back, where the delicacies sold out front are made every night. A huge brick oven sits in one corner of the bakery. On its little iron door there is an impressive date: 1895 — the year it was made.“This oven used to run on coal,” says Bart. “We changed the heating system in the ’70s but maintained the original oven. It bakes bread in a very different way compared to the electric ovens, and we use it for the lower round breads with thicker crusts.”
The brick oven is the first thing Bart turns on when he comes into the bakery at 7 p.m. to start his shift. “It takes two hours just to heat up.”
On the other side of the room is the bakery’s second oven, which is a more modern electric oven similar to the ones used in other historic North End bakeries like Parziale’s and Bova’s.
In the middle of the room are a giant kneader and a long rectangular table, where Bart’s brother Rocco cuts up different sizes of dough with mathematical precision, while Bart’s assistant Carlos forms balls of dough by hand.
“You learn with time,” says Rocco. “You understand how much a certain piece weighs just by looking at it.”
Rocco is two years younger than Bart and learned the art of bread baking at nearby Bova’s Bakery.
“We lived across the street from Boschetto’s,” Rocco recalls, “and Bova’s was just around the corner.”
Rocco worked under Joe Sr., son of Bova’s founder Anthony.
“I remember the old man would always be in the bakery to check on us, although he didn’t run the bakery anymore.” In 1973, Rocco opened his own bakery — “De Stefano Bakery” — in Waltham, but had to close it in 2007. That’s when he joined his brother at Boschetto’s.
By 8 p.m. every night, the two brothers and their assistant baker Carlos are fast at work, breaking up dough for the crunchy bread and cookies that will fill up the shop the next day.
Once the breads are done, pizza is made before the break of dawn, while a fig filling is rolled inside oval-shaped biscotti.
For customers, the choice is always hard. The anisette-scented cookies are tempting, but so are the almond and nut filled biscotti.
In the end, it’s probably easier to return home with bags filled of just about everything. Your stomach won’t be disappointed.
After all, it takes a good bakery and an experienced baker to make bread and cookies for over 110 years.