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By Annette Nielsen
Photograph By Annette Nielsen –
Rise and shine on a Saturday morning if you want authentic, freshly baked Italian bread and sweet pastries from Catania Bakery. This established District institution has been turning out excellent loaves of Italian bread since August of 1932. Started by the Caruso family (and named after the Catania province in Sicily, their original home), the Caruso’s moved the family business from Massachusetts to DC. Louis Caruso sold the business in 1978 when Nicole Tramonte and her husband, Anthony took over the space.
Anthony’s day job was that of a dentist, and during the same time they purchased Catania Bakery, he and Nicole also owned the Bayou, a Georgetown nightclub and weren’t yet experienced with baking Italian bread.
“The Caruso’s offered to stay on to teach us the business and share their recipes while they lived upstairs,” says Nicole. Former owner, Louis Caruso, now 101, can still be seen at the bakery some Saturdays when one of his nurses brings him by to chat with customers and check in on this North Capitol mainstay. On days when he doesn’t get a ride in, Nicole makes sure to visit him on her way home.
The bakery provides Italian breads and rolls for numerous restaurants and Italian delis like well-known Litteri’s, Trattoria Alberto, Mangialardo’s, The Italian Store, Vace and Manoli-Canoli. “Many of our customers started with the Caruso family and have stayed on with us for the last 37 years that we’ve run the bakery,” says Nicole.
Here on North Capitol Street, you find it’s authentic and old world – from the pressed tin ceiling to the large dough mixer with only three buttons for fast, slow and stop (and a brass plaque that states, “Built for Catania Bakery, sold by I.J. White Corp in NY”) to the large cast-iron trough that hold the dough during it’s proofing stage.