Every six months, all the bakery’s operations shift to one of three cousins.
“Right now we have the bakery until the end of February,” says Diane, wife of Joey Bova. The couple runs the bakery alongside their three children, Joseph III “Joe Joe,” Michael and Michelle, who help out with the day-to-day routine.
“At the end of this month the bakery goes to Anthony and his brother George, and after another six months it will go to Ralphie,” she says.
No matter who runs it, the shop never stops. It is the only bread bakery in the neighborhood open 24 hours, churning out all sorts of breads, pastries and other baked goods.
The shop’s offerings can be a little overwhelming for the new comer, but everything is actually well organized: To the left, cream and frosted pastries, followed by a wide assortment of pizza and calzones. To the right there are cakes, cookies and dry pastries, all displayed in front of the many types of bread available at Bova’s. There are the traditional Bastone and Scala breads, as well as the Tuscan, the Stubbie and the Scala.
Bread and flour flow in the family, ever since the bakery opened across the street in 1932.
Antonio Bova and his wife Victoria came from Calabria to the United States between 1906 and 1907, when Antonio started working as a baker at the nearby Parziale’s bakery. After a few years, the couple invested their savings to open their own little shop on Prince Street. That shop quickly flourished into a bigger business and the bakery was moved to its current location at the end of the ’40s, when Antonio bought the entire corner building.Three of Antonio’s five sons joined the business and took over from their father shortly after the move and expanded the bakery in the ’60s.
“The bakery used to be one long shop,” says Joey Bova, who is currently running the business with his wife Diane.
“The entrance was on Prince Street and you could see the ovens at the far back. There used to be a coffee shop where the bakery is today, and some say that’s where the first Stop & Shop used to be there as well.”
When not involved in the bakery, Joey and his family run a small sandwich shop in Randolph. Joey’s cousin Anthony, who takes over in March with his brother Georgie, is a famous dentist in the neighborhood.
“It all rotates around the family,” says Joey.
“When I was growing up I would spend a lot of time in the bakery and I got to know my grandparents pretty well. When I stopped by the shop I would first go upstairs to give Nonno a kiss. Sometimes he gave me a dollar. Then I’d run up another flight of stairs and kiss Nonna. The two always talked in Italian and I picked up a lot of words and sayings from them. Some mornings I’d stay a little longer at Nonno’s, where I got to shave him. My father, meanwhile, was downstairs baking bread. He passed away in 1984, at 54, and I took over when I was 26.”
By then, the bakery was already split among three of Antonio’s sons: Joe, Georgie and Ralph.
The three-way system worked perfectly for them, just as it is working nowadays for all the cousins involved. The bread is just as good as it was back in the day and that – in the end – is what really keeps an 80-year-old business going.