Owners Debate Fate of Century-Old Bakery
JOHN YDSTIE, host:
Just to the southwest along Highway 90 in New Orleans, such nationally known culinary landmarks as Cafe Du Monde and K-Paul's reopened this past week. Many family restaurants and stores have not been so fortunate. And as NPR's Evie Stone reports, some store owners must first decide whether to stay in business at all.
EVIE STONE reporting:
Midcity New Orleans offers all kinds of restaurants: Chinese, Vietnamese, diners, steakhouses. But when locals want dessert, they head down Carlton Avenue to Angelo Brocato's. This Sicilian ice cream shop and bakery has been run by the same family since 1905. Angelo Brocato III says the menu hasn't changed.
Mr. ANGELO BROCATO III (Owner, Angelo Brocato's): Ice cream and the cannolis, the pastries, cream puffs, eclairs, tiramisu cake. Since St. Joseph's Day, we were putting the special flavors out that my grandfather used to make occasionally, like the St. Joseph chocolate almond. Oh, ta--they love that, you know, and they love those flavors.
STONE: Brocato and his brothers just finished remodeling in July for the store's 100th anniversary party. Just a few weeks later, Hurricane Katrina remodeled Brocato's again. The floodwater reached waist height inside. Grimy display cases still hold the remains of August's tiramisu and sugar dispensers filled with murky water sit on swollen cafe tables. Angelo's brother, Arthur, shows us around, his face covered by a paper mask.
Mr. ARTHUR BROCATO (Angelo's Brother): And you can see all the gelato paste is all upside down and--case--we had spumoni displays and all that in and counters and registers. Chairs that we've been having for years look like they came out of the Titanic.
(Soundbite of heavy machinery)
STONE: Outside, clean-up workers haul away rancid piles of garbage. On an ordinary afternoon, that sidewalk would see steady traffic, kids from the nearby Catholic school stopping by for cones, but Saturday nights were the busiest.
Mr. A. BROCATO: We'd have all the tables filled with people, a line at the counter here with our pastries and cookies, gelato and the spumoni and cassata ice cream. We'd have the smells of the coffee, the cappuccino and the espresso and the pastry--the sweet smell, not this nasty smell that we're smelling right now.
STONE: The Brocato brothers are in their 50s and 60s now and the idea of starting over is daunting. Insurance money won't cover all their losses, so Arthur Brocato says they're still trying to figure out what to do.
Mr. A. BROCATO: That's what our struggle has been, trying to determine what is best for us financially to survive and then what is best for us emotionally to survive. You know, Italians are very emotional people, and if we kept this business just for the money, we'd have been out of it years ago.
STONE: But in order for a neighborhood business to get by, there'd have to be neighbors, and today, the sodden houses in midcity and many other parts of New Orleans still stand empty.
Evie Stone, NPR News.
YDSTIE: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.
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