Thursday, June 22, 2017

Project Eats 2017 Meet the Vendor: Prato Bakery

The Jersey City Project's Project Eats 2017 is back on 6/24 and 6/25 with new vendors and returning favorites, all ready to serve up some delicious, indulgent eats. To help get you ready, I'm excited to be collaborating with The Jersey City Project to spotlight some of the vendors from this year's Project Eats, learning more about their business, their food, and what they love about Jersey City.

This week, we're focusing on some favorite Jersey City vendors. Find out more about Prato Bakery, a favorite neighborhood spot, and learn some of their personal history as well as the history in their food.

Tell me about Prato Bakery - how did it get started?
It’s a long story, but I think it’s worth reading….I was born in Prato, a medieval town in the heart of Tuscany, Italy. Prato is famous worldwide for two aspects: the impressive textile factories, which serve the most important fashion brands, and the baking tradition, with distinctive and delicious original recipes. I spent my youth years working for the biggest fashion factories in Prato, following in my father’s work and building my own career. But at 28 I decided to pursue my dream and dedicate myself to my other passion:baking. I started working in one of the most famous bakeries in Prato, owned by a longtime friend, and there I learned the art of baking and the recipes for the most traditional baked goods. 

In 2007, I decided to bring the Tuscan tradition to the United States with my Italian friends. After a couple of years of ‘back and forth’ between Prato and New York, looking for the right place, I opened Il Cantuccio NYC with my partners in the West Village. After several years of success, I recognized the opportunity to introduce the Tuscan traditions and recipes to the untapped market in the vibrant community of Jersey City. As such, we closed Il Cantuccio and I focused 100% of my efforts in my bakery in downtown Jersey City, opened more than 2 years ago, which I decided to name Prato Bakery to underline my attachment to the Tuscan baking tradition and to my hometown.

Wow, that's quite a journey and the tradition in your baking certainly shows. You're well known for your cantucci - what's the history behind the recipe?
The traditional ‘biscotto di Prato’ is the cantuccio with almonds, a recipe first brought to life by the master baker Antonio Mattei from Prato in 1858 and then became famous worldwide. My recipe for the cantucci maintains the traditional core, but has developed in more than one flavor, as I learned in Italy. You can now find cantucci with chocolate, figs, apricot, prune and the brutti buoni (literally ugly but good), a round ball of almond and hazelnut paste baked on wafer paper. The preparation of the cantucci has to be extremely accurate, following the original ancient recipe. Each single dough loaf is rolled by hand and laid on the baking trays, then every loaf is brush-painted with fresh eggs before being baked. The ingredients are chosen carefully and of the highest quality to ensure the traditional taste.

What made you decide to open Prato Bakery in Jersey City?
I, with my family, discovered Jersey City in 2013 and we began to love the sense of community that was so similar to our hometown Prato: people know and help each other, the small businesses, run by families, looked similar to what we wanted and our mission as a bakery.

What do you like about being in business in Jersey City and having your storefront here?
We appreciate the fact that neighbors see our bakery as a place to ‘live’. They come regularly and we know everybody, they choose Prato Bakery to meet friends, to bring parents when they come visit, to bring kids for a snack after school or to work in a relaxed ambiance. It’s precious, for us, to have regular customers that appreciate our dedication to authentic Tuscan food! What I always wanted is to make our customers feel like they’re in Tuscany when they spend their time in Prato.

What are you looking forward to at Project: Eats?
This is our first year as vendors after being customers for the past few years. It’s really exciting to be part of this event and to bring our specialties to a larger number of people. There’s something special every time we present our Tuscan products for the first time to someone: in a way, we present ourselves and our history.

Photo courtesy of Prato Bakery FB
Considering that, do you have a favorite off your menu or anything you'd recommend to someone trying it for the first time?
We will bring our best sellers to the event: our olive oil focaccia bread with porchetta, homemade spicy sauce and arugula and our cantucci, in the variety of chocolate and the classic almond. The sandwich and the cantucci are both a must try!!!

Thank you to Prato Bakery and make sure to stop by on Saturday and Sunday to try out some of their sandwiches and traditional cantucci!

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