3264 Hempstead Tpke. Levittown, NY 516-796-3033
Look closely at the bright array of baked goods displayed at Dortoni in Levittown and you can see the evolution of Lello Messina's career.
There are the unreconstructed old-school biscotti and simple cookies that haven't changed since he opened the store in 1976. Actually, the dozen-odd varieties -- such as plain, chocolate, nut filled, lemon iced, anise flavored, all selling for $8.95 a pound -- are virtually identical to the biscotti that he grew up with in his father's pastry shop in Naples.
The quality of these goods foretold Dortoni's success, as did the store's efficiency and spotlessness. Soon after opening, Messina began to expand his repertoire. "The neighborhood was predominantly Irish and Jewish," he reasoned. "Why couldn't I can make soda bread and challah?" Soon these took their place alongside American layer cakes ($18.50) and pies and French tarts.
During the '80s, Messina added "European-style tortes," fancy French confections such as St. Honore cake ($24.50), that enabled him to compete with the supermarkets that were beginning to challenge independent bakeries. In 1994, Messina bought a bakery, La Bonne Boulangerie in Port Jefferson, and then opened a second Bonne Boulangerie in East Norwich.
By this time his sons Donnie and Corey were in the business and the three opened a Messina Market cafe in East Norwich (2003) and Manhasset (2007). His sons have been the driving force behind the modern bakery must-haves -- themed cupcakes ($1.50 to $2.50) and pizza-sized party cookies ($22.50).
Some things don't change, though. Every day, between 6:30 and 7 a.m., Lello Messina arrives at Dortoni to start the workday. -- Erica Marcus (Newsday / Jan. 12, 2012)
Lello Messina has owned Dortoni Bakery in Levittown since 1976. (Jan. 9, 2011)