When Dan Madaffari and his wife, Elecia, decided to open an authentically Italian sandwich shop and bakery, they knew just where to get their secret ingredient. Joe Primavera, known as "Joey Bread" back in his native Brooklyn, N.Y., was that ingredient. He's Elecia's dad.
"I sprang it on him," said Dan Madaffari, brown eyes twinkling. The day after opening the doors on MadaVera's Original Hero & Bakery in the Timber Hills Plaza, Dan called his father-in-law and announced, "Hey, I opened a bakery. Wanna bake?"
Since the business opened in April, Primavera, who began working in a bakery at age 15 and is now 64, has been up to his elbows in flour at 5 a.m. daily, turning out crusty hero and Italian hard rolls as well as flaky pastries, creamy cheesecakes and velvety cakes.
Meanwhile, Dan Madaffari, 42, has been building a reputation as a sandwich man, loading Italian-cured pastrami, corned beef or combos of capicola, mortadella, pepperoni and salami into those baked-fresh-daily rolls or onto classic New York breads. At a half-pound of meat each, one sandwich often serves a single customer one meal now and another later.
For 24 years, Madaffari, a New York native, opened restaurants for others, working out of Fort Lauderdale. Moving to Spring Hill two years ago, he brought with him the successes and failures of those other businesses, deciding to open his own.
Customers are hard-pressed to decide whether savory or sweet most tempts their taste buds at MadaVera's.
"It's 50-50 sandwiches and baked goods," the owner said.
Two pastry cases greeting customers inside the door start salivary glands flowing with cherry-glazed and frosting-piped cheesecakes, four-layered Bavarian cream cakes with cannoli cream filling and real-chocolate-not-frosting-topped eclairs. Each slice or individual pastry is hungry-sized.
"We use 90 pounds of cream cheese a week," Madaffari said. "20 pounds of ricotta for the cannoli cream."
Italian cookies, all made flaky with butter, many rich with almonds, range from chocolate-filled and dipped fingers, madeleines tucked with raspberry, four-layered classic Italian and sesame rolls.
On a recent morning, Timber Pines resident Christine Fuller stepped right to the cookie case and asked for a pound of sesame cookies.
"They are the best sesame cookie in the world, including the Luna Cafe in New York," Fuller declared.
She intended to eat them all herself, explaining, "They're even good frozen." Maybe she'd share one with her husband.
A shop regular, Fuller eyed the other offerings.
"Their cheesecakes are phenomenal, creamy and delicious. The cannolis are awesome."
Beyond the pastries, meats and cheeses await slicing for the protein eaters.
"Best pastrami and corned beef around," boasts the menu.
"We only use the navel of the brisket," Madaffari pointed out.
The pastrami is smoked, the corned beef, boiled, providing the different flavors, he explained.
"We quick steam for every customer," he added.
The shop moves 50 pounds of both pastrami and corned beef a week. Meats are sliced to order. Veggies for the heroes are on demand, "anything you want," Madaffari said.
"Everything we do is big," he insisted.
That could also refer to the All-American chocolate cookie back in the pastry case. It's the size of a saucer.
Fuller deemed the prices reasonable: $9.99 for a whole cheesecake or a pound of Italian cookies, topped cheesecake or layer cake slice $3.25, baba $2.80, chocolate chip cookie $1.90.
Heros are $5 to $9, pastrami and corned beef $9 and $10 and classic deli sandwiches $7 and $8.
Madaffari has enlisted not just his father-in-law in the business. His wife, Elecia, directs the bakery; mother-in-law Nancy Primavera bakes; son Anthony, 18, and daughter Marie, 16, make sandwiches; daughter Stephanie, 13, rolls out cookies and bread dough.
MadaVera's accepts orders by phone. Full-service catering also is available.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]