Madonia Bakery on Arthur Avenue in The Bronx is celebrating its 100th anniversary. What a milestone. Not only are those connected with this family-owned business excited, but the bakery’s many customers are excited, too. Located in the Belmont section, the bakery, of course, serves the community. But fans also travel, in some cases long distances, to stock up on the traditional breads, cookies, biscoti, cannoli, and other treats Madonia continues to produce.
The bakery’s founder, Mario Madonia, immigrated from Sicily. In 1918, he opened the first Madonia on Adams Place in the Bronx, moving 14 years later to its larger location on Arthur Avenue. In the 1960s, Mario’s sons, Pete and Frank, took over running the bakery. In 1982, the third generation represented by Pete’s son, Mario, stepped in. Tragedy struck when Mario was killed in a car crash when he was only 38. His brother, Peter, who had earned a master’s degree in urban studies at the University of Chicago, was working as a deputy commissioner for the New York Fire Department. Family came first, and Peter left the NYFD to run the bakery.
After managing the bakery for six years, Peter took on a partner, Charlie LaLima, who had been working as a baker in Brooklyn. When Charlie came on board, Peter was able to return to work in the public sector, becoming first Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chief of staff, and then the chief operating officer of the Rockefeller Foundation. Peter’s father, Pete, died last year, so Peter retired from the Rockefeller Foundation and returned to run the bakery.
We visited the bakery recently, stocking up on our own favorites and being greeted by Peter himself. He graciously agreed to talk with us about Madonia and what it means to be celebrating as the Italians say, cent’anni.