Orsi’s Italian Bakery & Pizzeria first opened their doors to the Little Italy community 98 years ago. It’s one of the last remaining landmarks in the historic area. In 2019 the company will be celebrating their 100-year anniversary. Nearly a century’s worth of memories, the bakery has adapted through many changes including many owners, some family and some friends. One thing has never changed though—the location. The neighborhood staple has remained on the corner of Sixth and Pacific Street.
The founder, Alfonso Orsi, started up the business in 1919, retired in 1949 and passed down the business to his son, Claudio Orsi, who ran the bakery until 1987. After that, Bob Orsi took over. His son, Bob Orsi Jr., continued the legacy and bought the bakery with Jim Hall and their wives in 2006. Four years later Bob Orsi Jr. sold his share of the bakery to Jim Hall. Jim, his wife and team have been running the place ever since.
An entire wall in the entry of the restaurant is decorated with memorabilia of the restaurant and photos from the neighborhood over the years.
The company rebuilt the entire bakery from the ground up after a fire burned down the place in 1997. A framed news clipping about the fire hangs on a wall of many photos in the front of the restaurant.
In between answering phone calls and taking orders even during the slowest part of the day, Jim explained the process of making bread. The day starts early at 4:30 in the morning, when he starts mixing the dough.
The dough rises in the large proof box for 25-30 minutes, and then they weigh it out and roll each loaf by hand. Fun fact: It’s the same recipe from 1919.
The rolled dough then goes into a smaller proof box that can fit rows and rows of dough. After closing the box, they place it by the oven to help the dough rise.
Because in the morning it’s a bit chilly in the bakery, they have to place the second proof box near the oven as the ovens provide the only source of heat. Dough is very tricky to play with depending on the heat and moisture levels in the air.
After proofing one more time, the dough goes into the oven on one of five rotating shelves. They cook the bread at 425 degrees.
After cooking, the bread sits and cools on the racks before being sliced and packaged.
Jim is no rookie to making bread. Since 1967, Jim started coming down to work at the bakery at 8 years old where he’d help wrap up the bread and deliver to local grocers.
On average, they bake 400 loaves of bread a day. On the weekend they bake 600 loaves of bread a day on average. In the past, they used to bake 3,000 to 4,000 loaves a day when they were still baking for grocery stores.