Among its many treasured merchants, Bronx Little Italy is home to Gino’s Pastry Shop, a beloved fixture in the neighborhood since 1960.
Highly regarded for, among other things, creative wedding cakes and Italian pastry’s - notably their cannolis - this Belmont business has recently added another Gino’s specialty that has gotten national consumer attention including the adulation of Bronx-born celebrity Chazz Palminteri.
I first became aware of this new pastry sensation on a Twitter post, at which point I immediately replied with my desire to do a feature about this new doughnut specialty. Shortly thereafter I heard back from Jerome and we scheduled a time to meet at his shop.
Determined to find out, my mind started wandering to other great "unexpected" food combos that made it into popular food culture - peanut butter and chocolate; pepperoni and pizza. Maybe cannoli cream and doughnuts was the next great staple!
Clearly, bakers have been stuffing doughnuts for decades with jelly and custard. But, no one as of yet had the ingenuity to take the ethnically-based and beloved cannoli cream and fill anything besides a cannoli shell. What a great concept!
When I arrived at Gino's the store was hoppin' with local patrons. The care and patience with which Jerome and Giovanna extended to each customer was a breath of fresh air in a modern society filled with rushing and pushing people through. It's no wonder this pastry shop is still a vibrant dessert destination after six decades.
I brought my sixteen year old daughter Gianna (who loves Arthur Avenue!) along and we sat patiently watching as trays of fresh cannoli shells were brought out from the back, and clients enthusiastically ordered their selection of Italian baked goods and frothy cappuccinos.
We were soon joined by Jerome and sat comfortably in his store where I learned about his business and its origins. Arriving from Italy, his parents Gino and Ciara Raguso established Gino's Pastry Shop in Little Italy in 1960. Growing up in the business, Jerome has clearly kept their legacy alive offering the very best in Italian cookies, cakes and pastries. Even through the worst of times, one of which is the recent Covd-19 pandemic, Gino's continues to thrive thanks to his commitment and a loyal following.
Like other businesses all over and in the Little Italy neighborhood, Jerome's establishment was affected by the current health crisis. In addition to their wedding cake business which makes up roughly 75% of their business, Gino's is also an important supplier of desserts to the neighborhood restaurants. With the cancellation of weddings and restaurant closures due to the mandates of the pandemic, Covid-19 had a challenging effect on business.
One of the store's best-selling items are their cannolis, which are sold in-store, to restaurants and to customers around the country. To insure absolute freshness, cannoli shells and the store's proprietary cannoli cream, are packaged separately for restaurants and long-distance orders so they can be filled just prior to serving and eating.
With some ingenuity, Jerome decided to bring a new twist to the traditional cannoli and took an italian baked confection, better known as the "bombolini" or what Americans would know as a doughnut, and decided to fill them with cannoli cream. The result was incredible, particularly after a number of Bronx-born long time celebrity friends tried his new creation - affectionately called the "Donnoli."
Jerome shared with me that "After a few of my close neighborhood celebrity friends like Tommy Mottola and Chazz Palminteri tried them, they became regular patrons of the new "Donnoli." In fact, word began to spread via social media after Chazz Palminteri's son, Dante and Mattola posted photos and comments about the Donnoli on their pages. He went on to say, "That's when I got calls from around the country from people wanting to order them."
By this point, my mouth was watering. Then... Jerome served us two Donnoli variations. One "bombolini" (or doughnut) filled with his traditional cannoli cream and a second one filled with Nutella!
He told me that he realized there were lots of possible "fillings" he could offer and for those customers calling in to place orders he gives them some options. All shipped orders are sold with the empty "bombolinis" and the filling separately. "We are currently shipping our Donnolis around the country, as far as California and Idaho, as well as closer states like New Jersey," says Jerome.
Folks, these are a must-try! Head to Arthur Avenue to experience the yummy goodness. If you are unable to travel to the shop, drop them a line for a delivery!
As Jerome says, Gino's is "where you cannoli get the best!"
Till next time,