The aroma of seeded French bread, puff bread, tomato pie and hoagie tomato bruschetta all filled the air in the back of Cacia’s Bakery.
Located at the intersection of Mole and Ritner streets, Cacia’s has been a South Philadelphia staple for more than sixty years.
“We opened Easter week of 1953,” said 3rd generation baker and owner Sam Cacia. “It was started by my grandfather and then passed down to my father, Joe Cacia. After that, it was passed down to me. Now my son is here learning about the business.”
Cacia’s Bakery has a deep history. After being born in the United States, Cacia’s grandfather went to Italy. He decided to come back to America and got a job in a bakery.
“My grandfather started working in a bakery because he did not want to worry about going hungry,” said Sam Cacia. “He bounced around and worked at a couple different places. The current location was for sale and he brought it. My dad took over when my grandfather passed away at the age of 48.”
After the passing of Cacia’s grandfather, two of his uncles, Luis and Raymond Cacia, went out and expanded the family business. Raymond Cacia currently runs all the New Jersey locations.
In the background, Sam Cacia’s daughter, Danielle, joked about how her father has referenced his son multiple times and hardly talks about her working at the bakery.
“He keeps saying my son this, my son that,” said Danielle Cacia. “I’m standing back her wondering when he will say my name. Such a dad.”
Currently, the fourth generation of Cacias are learning the trade in order to one day take over the business. Danielle got her start at the family bakery during her teens, when the Ipod video came out.
“He made me come to work every day so I could buy myself the iPod video,” Danielle said. “From that, I learned a lot about this business and gained more appreciation for what my father did every day.”
Over the years, the bakery expanded into different items for more variety, which created more revenue. From the beginning, this family-owned and operated business owners knew they had something good.
“We always made sure we made the best stuff,” Sam Cacia continued. “We knew that if we had the best stuff, then we would always have customers.”
All the smells of fresh pizza begin to appear again as Cacia uses the 24-foot-long wooden handle in order to make the pizza in the brick oven, which has been in the bakery since 1944.
“The oven was built in 1944 by the guy who owned the store before us,” said Cacia. “Neither one of his sons wanted to work in the business, so he threw in the towel and sold the bakery to my grandfather in 1953. There are only a couple brick ovens left in the city. We are not the only one but definitely one of the few.”
When asked what would be one thing customers would never know about the bakery, Cacia and others jokingly agreed it would be the bakery’s hours.
“You would be so surprised how many calls I get about the bakery’s hours,” said Cacia. “We are open every day of the year beside Christmas and New Year.”
Forty years ago, Sam Cacia’s father started the Turkey Cooking Tradition to create more revenue. People come from all over the city to have their turkey’s cooked by the Cacias.
“The customer does most of the work,” Cacia said. “They come early in the morning and bring out their turkeys. We put tags on each turkey and they come back to pick it up in a few hours. There is nothing like a turkey made by the Cacias in our brick oven.”
Last year, more than 125 turkeys were cooked at Cacia’s. More are expected this year.
As a young man, Cacia started off making bread and rolls. Now he makes all the pizza and is still teaching his children the trade. This is the only job Cacia has ever had and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“People walk in and get a big smile on their face when they see all the hot fresh pizza and other items we make fresh every day,” he said. “It’s nice to provide something people enjoy.”
– Text, images and video by Christasia Wilson.
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