A long-shuttered bakery haunts Elizabeth Street

LaRosabreadco2The first sign, the very plain and almost hidden “209 Bakery,” comes into view as you walk north on Elizabeth Street, past the outdoor sculpture yard between Prince and Spring Streets.

On the facade of the building (next door to luxury condo 211 Elizabeth), the name of the old store reveals itself: “G. La Rosa & Son Bread Co. Inc.”

I couldn’t find any info on when G. La Rosa & Son closed their doors. The space has been occupied by the Elizabeth Street Gallery, an architectural ornament and antiques shop, for years.

Here it is in a 1995 photo with what looks like different graffiti on a roll-down gate covering the windows and doors.

LaRosabreadco

The gallery there today has some ridiculously high-priced objects for wealthy collectors. They probably do a good business.

But could anything for sale there could be as gratifying as the scent of fresh-baked bread wafting out the windows of an old-school Italian bakery?

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18 Responses to “A long-shuttered bakery haunts Elizabeth Street”

  1. ronfrankl Says:

    The comments section in the blogpost below fills in some of the blanks as to the fate of the bakery: http://outskirtsofsuburbia.blogspot.com/2011/03/g-la-rosa-and-son-bread-co-inc-nyc.html

  2. BabyDave Says:

    Ah yes, I remember it fondly. The smell was indeed wonderful, and in the wee hours of the morning you could buy rolls from the men who baked them – stilll warm from the oven.

  3. P. Gavan Says:

    This was the address of the old Ladder No 9 of the FDNY from about 1865 to 1948. I’ll have to check it out. But this old photo gives me the willies!

  4. J Fama Says:

    La Rosa Bakery was a huge operation where bread was made 24/7. The aroma in the neighborhood was incredible. La Rosa was started by two Italian immigrants who later upgraded to that building. Every Friday the old folks would sell pizza. Mr. and Mrs. La Rosa were the nicest people, gracious appreciative and proud of their work. They produced memorable pizza that cannot be duplicated…I tried. My grandfather had a lucheonette across the street named Papa Joe’s who made the best sandwiches imaginable. They served great food including the signature hero containging veal cutlets with fried potatoes and peppers with sauce. Boosting the phenominal taste was the fresh bread that was shuttled from La Rossa to Papa Joe’s several times a day. I remember the tremenous brown bags containing the fresh bread was so hot you could not carry it without gloves. The La Rosa buiding served as a wall (the side of the building depicted in the photo) of a stickball playground (pre-monument park). The other side of the playground was the old public school, I believe it was PS21 which was torn down. Great area to play stickball and stay out of the street. A transistor radio listening to Mel Allen broadcast a Yankee game and playing stickball made for a great afternoon. And yes, the La Rosa building was once a FDNY facility. Next to the building, up to the mid-1970s, was an 19th century one story building that was used as a chicken market. Live chickens to be slaughtered on demand. That was the most rural event I ever witnessed as a kid.

  5. Gerald LaRosa Says:

    This was my Grandfathers Bakery. The “G” was for Giacchino. In 1917, when he was just 17 years old, he came to America from a town in Palermo Sicily called Bagheria which was famous for bread making.
    He retired in the 1950’s and moved to Wood-Ridge New Jersey, where his sons, Ignazio (Known as I.J.) also mayor of Wood-Ridge until 1964, Angelo and Anthony and his daughters were Antoinette and Francis. We all lived on the same street in Wood-Ridge. I was too young to work in the bakery, but my older brothers had done so a few times. I understand that people would line up around the block, perhaps all the way up to Rivington Street to buy his bread. My grandfather would occasionally make pizza in his New Jersey home for me. It was out-of-this-world delicious.
    I’ve heard from other family members that the bakery was sold to a cousin “Michael”, who moved the operation to another part of New York. The last time I heard about LaRosa Bread was in 1990, when they were selling bread to commercial restaurants. I don’t know if the company still exists.

    • Vincent LaRosa Says:

      My family owned it until we shut down in 2002. Sounds like Gerald LaRosa and I are related. Mike was my grandfather

      • Gerald LaRosa Says:

        Hi Vincent, My oldest brother Jack had sent this info to me:

        Grandpa sold his customer base to his cousin Mike in 1955. Grandpa was born in 1885 and passed away in 1971. His first passage to the US from Bagheria was in 1905 at 20 years old. He established himself and in 1909(?) he went back to Italy, married Grandma, brought her back to NYC, had kids starting with Uncle Angelo in 1911(?) and eventually moved to Wood-Ridge in 1923. Grandma was the daughter of the local constable (or some prominent figure). His cousins, as I remember from my childhood, at the time all lived in Brooklyn. One cousin, as I recall, had the same birthdate as me, October 18. I think his name was Mike or Jack, but I’m not sure. As was the tradition in some Italian families there were “misunderstandings”, for lack of a better word, and they drifted apart. As a young child, I think we only visited the Brooklyn clan once.
        It would be interesting to see if Vincent is related and whatever happened to the Brooklyn “family”. Maybe you can pass this along to Vincent.
        Aunty Tony may be the perfect source for the who’s what’s and when’s.
        Jack

        So, I believe we must be related. It would be interesting to trade some pictures to see family resemblances? I live in Delaware at this time, but travel to the NY – NJ area from time to time. It wold be a pleasure to meet you.
        Jerry LaRosa
        http://www.jerrylarosa.com

  6. Bobby Says:

    The bakery was still there in 95′, it’s maybe been gone 15 yrs or so.

    • Gerald LaRosa Says:

      I have heard that the bakery relocated to the Bronx, perhaps Brooklyn? There is also a Pastry Shop in Shrewsbury NJ which I believe are operated by cousins of ours. When my Grandfather retired and moved to New Jersey, it was not unusual that side of the family to pursue a different way of life, as many immigrants wanted to improve the future of their children and grandchildren. We have the memories and story of the bakery to cherish and share with future generations of the LaRosa family. Progress has it’s rewards and punishments as it tends to be a sickle mulching out the old ways making room for the new. It seems the “new” isn’t as tasty, aesthetic or non-obsolescent as the “new”. I can’t remember when I’ve had a decent loaf of Italian bread. It all seems to be white pap, balloon bread with a crust. So much for progress.

  7. Elizabeth Street’s old-school meat market signs | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 1960s and 1970s-esque signs remain, just like this ghostly Italian bakery sign (over an antiques store) farther down the […]

  8. Francesca La Rosa Says:

    The original G. La Rosa & Son bakery was on the other side of Elizabeth Street. Years later my grandfather, Michael bought the old firehouse building and moved the bakery there.

    • Eddie Panta Says:

      Hello Francesca,
      I’m a resident of Elizabeth St. and a writer that contributes for the local news site boweryboogie.com. I working on a story about the Elizabeth St. in the mid 70’s to early 80’s. If possible, I’d like to ask you a few questions about the history of the La Rosa on Elizabeth St. Please let me know best way to contact.
      -Eddie Panta

    • Gerald LaRosa Says:

      My Grandfather Gioacchino LaRosa owned and operated the bakery BEFORE it was sold to a cousin Michael. The sons were in the order of oldest to youngest: Angelo, Anthony (also known as Red) and Ignazio (also known as Iggy). Gioacchino retired in the middle 1950’s. It was at that time and a few years prior, the family moved to Wood-Ridge, NJ. We all resided on the same street called Sussex Road. I know that the family would commute to NYC while the bakery was still in business. I was born in 1952 and knew from my older brothers (born in 1943 + 1945) of the early morning trips they said they made to help out at the bakery. Therefore, the bakery was still in operation under my Grandfather’s name until the accounts were sold to Michael. Unfortunately, I do not know the reason why the cousins on Michael or Francesca’s side didn’t keep in touch. I would love to hear from Francesca or any of Michael’s family about the years following.

  9. Peter LaRosa Says:

    Hi cousin my name is Peter LaRosa the great grandson of Sal LaRosa which I am pretty sure was one of g Larosa’s brother his father was Angelo and he had 5 brothers and always told how 2 of them came over and started on Elizabeth street with a pushcart then the store he was a pastry man we are famous for our cannoli I have the bakery in shrewsbury NJ. My brother used to talk to Michael in ny when he had the bread company. My great uncle was Angelo also and my grandfather was Frank I don’t this is a coincidence. I am the fifth generation baker on our side. Which I recently retired.would love to get more history from you Gerald trying to find some of our family in Italy have no clue .maybe you could help. My great grandfather did the same thing .the story goes the 2 brothers came over together and then went back later for their wives. My great grandfather bought a lot of property in Staten Island and opened a bakery in 1918 and has continued to this day in Shrewsbury NJ.M I Hale told my brother we were cousins.

    • Jerry LaRosa Says:

      Hi Peter, Many of my family as well as myself have visited the Shrewsbury bakery over the years. My sister Angela and my Mother Mary lived in Toms River at one point, so it was often a welcome stop along the route to visit some of the family still living in the North Jersey area. My Grandfather G sold the bakery business to Michael in the 1950’s. Little is known about Michael after the sale.

      The following is from a previous blog:

      My Grandfather Gioacchino LaRosa owned and operated the bakery BEFORE it was sold to a cousin Michael. The sons were in the order of oldest to youngest: Angelo, Anthony (also known as Red) and Ignazio (also known as Iggy). Gioacchino retired in the middle 1950’s. It was at that time and a few years prior, the family moved to Wood-Ridge, NJ. We all resided on the same street called Sussex Road. I know that the family would commute to NYC while the bakery was still in business. I was born in 1952 and knew from my older brothers (born in 1943 + 1945) of the early morning trips they said they made to help out at the bakery. Therefore, the bakery was still in operation under my Grandfather’s name until the accounts were sold to Michael. Unfortunately, I do not know the reason why the cousins on Michael or Francesca’s side didn’t keep in touch. I would love to hear from Francesca or any of Michael’s family about the years following.

    • Gerald LaRosa Says:

      Hi Peter, Many of my family as well as myself have visited the Shrewsbury bakery over the years. My sister Angela and my Mother Mary lived in Toms River at one point, so it was often a welcome stop along the route to visit some of the family still living in the North Jersey area. My Grandfather G sold the bakery business to Michael in the 1950’s. Little is known about Michael after the sale.

      The following is from a previous blog:

      My Grandfather Gioacchino LaRosa owned and operated the bakery BEFORE it was sold to a cousin Michael. The sons were in the order of oldest to youngest: Angelo, Anthony (also known as Red) and Ignazio (also known as Iggy). Gioacchino retired in the middle 1950’s. It was at that time and a few years prior, the family moved to Wood-Ridge, NJ. We all resided on the same street called Sussex Road. I know that the family would commute to NYC while the bakery was still in business. I was born in 1952 and knew from my older brothers (born in 1943 + 1945) of the early morning trips they said they made to help out at the bakery. Therefore, the bakery was still in operation under my Grandfather’s name until the accounts were sold to Michael. Unfortunately, I do not know the reason why the cousins on Michael or Francesca’s side didn’t keep in touch. I would love to hear from Francesca or any of Michael’s family about the years following.
      My understanding is that the LaRosa Family immigrated from Bagheria Sicily at the turn of the century. You can see the ship manifests on the Ellis Island registry.

      • Joseph LaRosa Says:

        Hello distant cousins. My name is Joe LaRosa and my father was Joey LaRosa who is cousins with Michael LaRosa. My dads father was Saverio and we operated a bakery out of Bushwick Brooklyn called LaRosa Bakery located on 280 Wilson Ave. We served coal fired brick oven bread and Pizzas on Friday. I am in the Restaurant buisness and own Barosa Restaurant in Rego Park Queens as well as other food establishments. It’s very nice to read on the history of family. Thanks for your time. Joe LaRosa

  10. Lynne DeTHample Says:

    You all should be proud of the legacy your grandparents and parents left behind! they all sound wonderful!

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