Sal and Dom’s Pastry Shop

six decades and strong in the bronx

By Valentina Cordero

Onex

(Photographs by Anne Noyes Saini and Valentina Cordero)

It’s easy to walk right by Sal and Dom’s Pastry Shop, an unassuming Italian bakery located on a quiet stretch of Allerton Ave. deep in the northeast Bronx. But step inside and the familiar aromas of flour and sugar instantly signal good things within.

Sal and Dom’s excellent Italian baked goods—all made with family recipes—have kept this family-run business going strong for nearly six decades. Cannoli, sfogliatelle (shown above), bugia, rum baba (rum-soaked miniature cakes), and tiramisu are among the shop’s specialties. Loaves of sesame bread (freshly baked in small batches) and a huge array of biscotti, cookies and sweet and savory taralli (a pretzel-like, boiled-and-baked snack) are also available each day.

The cannoli—fried dough shells spiked with white wine and filled with sweetened ricotta—are Sal and Dom’s signature pastry. The bugia (shown above; deep-fried ribbons of sweet dough dusted with powdered sugar), unusually light tiramisu, and crisp sfogliatelle (a delicately layered pastry shell stuffed with ricotta that’s blended with cinnamon and candied citrus zest) are also made with exceptional care and skill.

Domenico Cavallaro, now 82, arrived in New York City after World War II and opened Sal and Dom’s with Salvatore Rapisarda, his father-in-law. At first, they struggled to break even, moving from one location to another within the Bronx. But eventually they earned a reputation as one of the best pastry shops in the borough—and with it, a strong following.

“When we were on Wallace Ave. [also in the northeast Bronx], during the holidays two police officers would be controlling the big line of customers outside the store,” Cavallaro recalls, adding that Frank Sinatra’s chauffeur used to come by the shop to buy ricotta bignè (shown below; similar to a cream puff, but filled with ricotta cheese) for the singer.

Police crowd control is no longer necessary at Sal and Dom’s current location, where the neighborhood’s once large Italian community is steadily shrinking. Still, the shop does brisk business most days. In the weeks before Christmas and Easter, Cavallaro notes, the cozy ordering area fills with customers giving special orders and picking up trays of cookies, Sicilian cassata (cake layered with ricotta and decorated with candied fruit), pastierra (ricotta pie), pizza rustica (savory “pie” made with eggs, cheese and several meats) and marzipan fruits.

Despite his advancing age, Cavallaro (shown below, center) is still a regular presence in the shop. He works there alongside his brother-in-law Phil Pollicina (shown below, at right), 71, nephew, Carlo Pollicina (shown below, at left), 44, and Bill Maccaronio, 60, who has been the lead baker in their shop for 25 years.

The younger Pollicina, who has been working at Sal and Dom’s since his childhood, is committed to continuing his family’s Italian baking traditions. During the busy spring and winter holiday seasons, his own children help out in the shop.

“We care deeply about what we do and we understand that quality is important,” he says. “I could easily open up multiple locations, but then I would not have my cousin, mom, and dad’s support.”

Cavallaro agrees. “It’s the family that makes the business,” he says.

Strong family involvement in the shop has also made it possible for Cavallaro (shown above) to ease into semi-retirement without worrying about running the business. He still comes in to Sal and Dom’s each morning to speak with customers and help supervise the baking, but he rarely works a full day. On most afternoons Cavallaro has a more pressing engagement: watching Italian soccer games.

“My heart has always been Italian,” he says.

Sal and Dom’s Pastry Shop
1108 Allerton Ave. (map)
Bronx, NY 10469
(718) 515-3344


Want to keep up with the latest stories and tips from the Real Cheap Eats team? Click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletter!