Joseph’s Italian Pastry Shop Maintains Tradition of Excellence
DEERFIELD BEACH, FL – Perhaps it’s the wonderful aroma that greets you as you walk through the door. Or, maybe it’s the vibrant and colorful display of Italian butter cookies staring at you from behind a glass counter, taunting you to try and choose just one. But, on second thought, it’s really about so much more than just the food. There are those charming black and white photos of the Italian family that started this wonderful bakery that prompt you to immediately recognize that this is a family establishment.
Everything about Joseph’s Italian Pastry Shop in Deerfield Beach is, well, lovable. Yes, lovable. Even the owner, Mariano Teresi, has a warm and friendly manner and makes you feel like your visiting a long-lost friend. And, for many of us that have relocated from the north to the south, this bakery is a sort of long-lost friend. We grew up in Italian American neighborhoods with ones just like it.
It was tradition to go to the bakery each weekend and get bread, cakes and cookies. I can’t remember going to an Italian family gathering in Yonkers, N.Y. without first stopping at the the Italian bakery to get a pound of butter cookies to bring to the hostess. As a kid, my favorites were the rainbow cookies and they still are. You know, the ones that have three layers of sponge cake in assorted colors, then a layer of raspberry jam, and then the entire cookie is coated in a layer of hard chocolate. Until I found Joseph’s I hadn’t had one as good as the ones I’d gotten when I was growing up.
It seems that making all the cookies is a tedious and time-consuming endeavor, making it even more admirable—in this age of cost savings and mass production—that a bakery like Joseph’s takes the time. He’s there every morning at 6 a.m. to start baking. Thankfully, too, because most of us that have always had access to these cookies would have a difficult time imagining life without specialty Italian bake shops like Joseph’s. The method for making these cookies is a tradition that has now been passed down for three generations.
Mariano learned how to bake from his father, Joseph, as a child in Asbury Park, N.J. Joseph had learned from his father-in-law, Anthony Castelitto, who founded the first family bakery in Hoboken, N.J. in 1930. Joseph’s father started his bake shop in Asbury Park, N.J. in 1950. He fell ill when Mariano was a H.S. sophomore and Mariano got special permission to jump from 10th to 12th grade so that he could graduate early and go into the family business in order to help his father. Joseph taught him the traditions and recipes and he was a perfectionist.
“If you didn’t do things his way, he’d throw the whole thing off the table and make you start again,” Mariano shared.
The tough love paid off, though, because Joseph’s bakery, which Mariano has owned in the Deerfield Beach location since 1991, is truly one of the best, and it’s precisely because of the way they do things. And, while their cookies are my personal favorite, they’re best known, and most talked about, for their Cannoli Cake. It’s a decadent concoction of sponge cake and cannoli cheese topped with cannoli shells, whipped cream, and chocolate chips. It’s a well-known fixture at local Italian gatherings. But, Mariano didn’t set out to make a house specialty. In fact, it was developed as a sort of fluke.
“I realized every time we made the cannoli shells that a lot would break. And I was thinking, why am I throwing all of these out?” he explained.
Joseph’s has plenty of traditional holiday specialties, too, another reason why they’re a popular destination for local Italians that like to celebrate with traditional food. For the Roman Catholic holiday, St. Joseph’s Day (“San Giuseppe” in Italian, he was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Catholic faith), which is celebrated on March 19th here and also in Italy, they make the traditional zeppoli (also sometimes spelled zeppole, depending on what part of Italy you’re from).
One of the priests from the local parish, St. Ambrose, is always present on St. Joseph’s Day to bless the baked goods for their customers.
With Easter right around the corner, they’ve been busy making the Italian foods that are traditionally served, including wheat pie, pizza rustica, Easter bread rings (the ones with the hard-boiled eggs in them), and ricotta cheesecake. The wheat pie is another house specialty, also called “pastiera”, “pastiera di grano” or “torta di grano.” It’s rumored that this torta, with origins in Napoli, was the favorite of Napoli’s Queen Maria Teresa, a woman who never smiled—except, apparently, when she was eating this pie. It’s made with soaked wheat berries and ricotta and every Italian baker adds ingredients to make it their own. Mariano’s mother, Antoinette, ships the wheat grain to him from New Jersey, since it’s not available in Fl.
Something you’ll only see at Joseph’s, and if you’re from up north will bring back memories, is the red and white twine they use to tie their bakery boxes. This is another item that is shipped from Jersey, this time by Mariano’s sister, because it’s not available here. You’ll notice at other bakeries that they don’t use this twine – instead they tape their boxes, so this is just another little, special thing, among the many, that makes Joseph’s unique.
Joseph’s Italian Bake Shop is located at 788 South Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach, FL, 33441 (between Hillsboro Blvd and S.E. 10th St. in a white strip mall on the northeast side of the road). Their phone number is 954-571-7747. Their website is currently under construction, but you can find them on Facebook, which they update regularly. They kindly request that you make your Easter orders by Thursday.