This weekend, Tampa's historic Alessi Bakery throws its own birthday party, and it will require a lot of candles.
Alessi has been operating almost continuously since 1912, when Nicolo Alessi, originally from Italy, opened a bakery on Cherry Street and delivered Italian and Cuban bread by horse and wagon. It is as much a part of the fabric of Tampa as Gasparilla or Cuban sandwiches or scachatta (a Sicily-by-way-of-Tampa culinary oddity, cold, pizza-ish bread squares). Come to think of it, four generations of Alessis have sold a whole mess of Cubans and scachatta every Gasparilla.
On Saturday and Sunday, Alessi will roll back many prices to those in 1912. What that means for local Italophiles and bakery fans: 39 cent brownies, 49 cent eclairs, 39 cent coconut macaroons and 49 cent guava pastries. Other favorite deli items will be featured on special as well, such as the ever-popular Cuban sandwich for $4.99, deviled crab for $2.99 (like tiny breaded Nerf footballs, only tastier) and $4 discounts on 7-inch cakes.
Phil Alessi Jr. said that for years, Alessi (no relation to Alessi Foods) has had just one retail outlet, a deli and bakery with only outdoor seating at 2909 W Cypress St. They took a huge step toward expansion in the 1990s with the opening of a 40,000-square-foot production facility in Drew Park, and when the airport annexed that space in 2008 they moved again and opened a $20 million, 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant off Waters Avenue in Town 'N Country.
Phil said it was his father, Phil Sr., who saw the writing on the wall: Big grocery store chains were developing their own bakeries and putting mom-and-pops out of business. In an if-you-can't-beat-'em move, Alessi partnered with Publix, then Kroger, Fresh Market, other grocers and food-service companies to produce baked goods like miniature fancy pastries and single-serve desserts.
Although they opened a couple other cafes along the way, and sell grab-and-go items at Tampa International Airport, it's still the flagship bakery on Cypress that functions as the primary retail outlet. The future for Alessi may include additional expansion: "We're still in growth mode," Alessi said.
The price roll-back, "is something neat to do for the community. It brings back a lot of memories of back in the day when my grandfather was running it," Alessi said.
Prices at the bakery at 2909 W Cypress St. in Tampa are in effect 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Alessi Bakery invites the community to join the celebration by sharing their bakery stories using the hashtag #MyAlessiStory. In addition to rolling back prices, the bakery will be giving away anniversary T-shirts, and a free cookie for children.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.