Legendary Scialo Bros. Bakery won’t reopen

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Gail Ciampa Journal Food Editor gailciampa

Sunday

Sep 27, 2020 at 3:34 PM
Sep 27, 2020 at 6:42 PM

PROVIDENCE — When a business such as Scialo Bros. Bakery closes, it’s not just the owners and staff who suffer a loss. It’s felt by everyone who depended on them for their Christmas cookie trays, St. Joseph zeppole and Zuppa Inglese birthday cakes.

Scialos, which was opened by brothers in 1916 and run by sisters since 1993, is no more, said owner Carol Gaeta. The building that houses the Italian Federal Hill bakery is for sale, she said.

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Gaeta is still mourning her sister and co-owner Lois Ellis, who died of cancer in August. Now she mourns the bakery which she hoped would be sold to a baker and continue to operate.

It shut down on March 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, Scialos’ resident oven expert went to the bakery every two days to keep the oven lit and running The antique ovens require a multi-step process to light them. They collapse if they shut down, she said.

“Two weeks ago, I told Anthony Andreozzi to stop, and he cried,” Gaeta said from her home. He understood the meaning that Scialos would not be reopening.

Gaeta said shutting down Scialos was the most difficult decision she ever had to make.

“We were getting ready for St. Joseph’s Day and had gallons and gallons of vanilla ready to go. Gallons that cost $300 each,” she said.

But fears for making her family or staff sick made her decide it was safer to shut the bakery down. She didn’t think at the time it would signal her retirement, which she described as one of many ruined by COVID-19.

Her father, Luigi, opened the bakery with his brother Gaetano when they immigrated from Italy in 1916. Luigi ran the bakery after his brother returned to Italy in 1925. Gaeta and Ellis took over when their father died at 103.

Gaeta was the baker and worked on site while Ellis, an educator, did all the paperwork including handling taxes, payroll and the like. They were the perfect team, she said.

The 11,500-square-foot building at 249-257 Atwells Ave. was listed with MG Commercial for $1,195,000. It includes Scialos as well as two, three-bedroom rental units on the upper floors and space occupied by the art gallery next to the bakery.

Rick Simone, executive director of the Federal Hill Commerce Association, said Bill DiStephano Jr., the principal at Omni Group, developers who currently own 11 acres on Federal Hill, have agreed to purchase the property.

Gaeta said there is no signed purchase and sale agreement.

She was most emotional when she talked about her staff and her customers. Both have been beloved to Gaeta and part of her life since she was a child growing up in the apartment above the restaurant.

“Scialos is too big for bakers today,” she said. It includes two back rooms and a storage space on the second floor.

“Other bakers aren’t going to do things the way we did,” she said.

“I want to thank everybody for being our customers,” she said, choking back tears. “Millions of them.”

She talked about how she will also miss her staff including Carlos Vallejos, the head baker for 20 years, and other longtime bakers Emmanuel “Wilson” Mejia and Marlon “Saul” Escobar-Ordonez and Noel Rivera, the dishwasher “whose hands were always in water,” she said.

She talked about Syrian immigrant Melineh “Melo” Hindoyan, who worked the front counter for 20 years with Nicole Pregoni, Andrea Gist and Samantha Caruso, who Gaeta hired when 14 and “she just graduated college.”.

They were all part of the family, she said. “I know people say that but I mean it.”

“Do we make money? I don’t think so,” Gaeta said.

“It was always a labor of love.

“We did it because we loved it.”

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