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Gala is just the icing on the cake

TAMPA — Even at the grand opening of his new plant, Phil Alessi was working.

He greeted guests at the door, shaking hands with friends and family. Then Herb Waschull walked over.

Waschull, a former director of bakery operations at Publix, was holding a special French butter cream pastry recipe. He handed it to Alessi.

"You have got to tell me how this works," Alessi said, looking at the ingredients and measurements.

Alessi's passion for pastry is one of the reasons his family's bakery business has been around for 95 years. Friday marked the grand opening of Alessi Bakery's $20-million, 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

Alessi moved from his 35,000-square-foot plant to the larger, ultramodern facility off Waters Avenue in the Town 'N Country area to meet rising demand for his confections.

The company makes pastries for large retailers such as Publix, Food Lion, Sysco Food Systems and Darden Restaurants. There are plans to step up more national production. Right now, Alessi ships baked goods to 42 states.

More than 50 guests, including former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, attended. Alessi was like a proud father.

"Wait till you see the back of this place," he told guests.

The lobby of the new plant has giant pictures of confections such as petits fours.

In the warehouse are huge mixers and vats, ovens and freezers, pallets of sugar, frosting and cake mix, and, of course, thousands of racks of baking sheets.

Inside, guests snacked on empanadas, sandwiches and cheese and crackers. The dessert cart included 18 feet of pastries.

Alessi said the new plant also will supply products to the Alessi Cafe, a new concept that he says will compete with Panera Bread. He said the first one will be in downtown Tampa in six months. One in St. Petersburg is to follow.

"This is one of the happiest days of my life," Alessi said from a podium set up in the warehouse. "I wish my dad and uncle could be here. I know they'd be proud."

Jared Leone can be reached at jleone@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5314.

Gala is just the icing on the cake 04/25/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 1:42pm]

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