MERIDEN — Rocco’s Village Bakery has found a second lease on life on South Meriden’s Main Street. The bakery, which occupied a location in New Haven for 40 years, closed in June after the owners Antonio and Anna DiBenedetto decided to retire, unable to keep up with the work demands at their age.
Their son Ferdinando DiBenedetto, the lead baker in the establishment for 30 years, however, saw the opportunity to continue the family business in a new location — 121 Main St. in South Meriden. Having planned to open the location just before the pandemic, DiBenedetto and his family had to delay their launch until July just after the New Haven location’s closure, bringing the same Italian-style pastries back to Meriden.
DiBenedetto is running the business alongside his wife Dorothy, 19-year-old son Antonio, and several other close associates who have known the family for many years — with help from their 12-year-old daughter Sophia. The business has a full suite of Italian pastries, offering dozens of different rolls, breads, cakes, and other desserts.
The community has quickly embraced Rocco's Pastry Shop and Bakery and business has been brisk, Dorothy DiBenedetto said. Patrons streamed in and out of the South Meriden shop on Thursday and the phone was ringing with inquiries.
“So many people say it's nice to have a bakery here in the village again,” she said, noting that she was thankful for the community showing so much enthusiasm since their opening.
“It's great. I mean, everybody's been wonderful, and everywhere I go, somebody mentions that they enjoy whatever they got,” she said. “So it makes us feel good that people are happy to have us here next in the community.”
People have even been coming from outside of Meriden to get some of the pastries being sold at Rocco’s. Dorothy DiBenedetto noted that several people came from New Haven — and another came from Simsbury just to pick up their bread. While the Record-Journal interviewed the owners on site Thursday, past employees of the New Haven location stopped in to purchase treats as well.
Time has flown by since opening the bakery, Dorothy DiBenedetto said, and with the current season, many more people are coming in for the holidays. The bakery is offering several limited-time offerings like pumpkin and coconut custard. Italian cream pies are another favorite this time of year.
Employee Tiffany Ehmka has known Dorothy for many years, with their children having attended high school together. “It’s been great, working for Dorothy is amazing,” Ehkma said.
The DiBenedettos are looking to continue the tradition of the family-owned business. Their son Antonio now works alongside his father in the bakery full-time and is learning the craft.
“It’s a little stressful at times, but pretty good overall,” Antonio DiBenedetto said. “I’m new to this for the most part, so it’s definitely a little nerve-racking. [But] I enjoy it. It's fun. It's a good change of pace.”
“It makes it better that I'm working side by side with my husband and my kids,” Dorothy DiBenedetto added. “My husband and I are building a legacy for our kids. It's a good feeling, and knowing that they want to help us.”
Dorothy DiBenedetto has been a longtime presence on South Meriden’s Main Street, and opened the Gift Box gift shop out of the first floor of her home in 2014. The store, next door to the bakery, officially closed Nov. 1 so that she and her family could focus their attention on the bakery full-time.
Though the bakery at the location has newly opened, the front of the building has borne the family name for some time.
The original owners, Antonio and Anna DiBenedetto, purchased the property in 1996 and used it as a commercial bakery for a number of years. Operations quietly ceased sometime after a 2008 lawsuit was filed against the owners by 10 undocumented immigrants employed at the New Haven location citing workplace abuse.
In 2016, the property changed hands to Ferdinando DiBenedetto. Dorothy DiBenedetto said the location and current management was not at all involved in the lawsuit or allegations and that the current bakery is an entirely new outfit. The case was eventually settled in 2014.
Dorothy DiBenedetto said she and her family are thankful for all the support, and that they are looking to be a long-term fixture in South Meriden.
“Thank you to everybody that has taken the time to stop in and try something and all the customers that have come back because they've enjoyed what they've gotten,” Dorothy DiBenedetto said. “And I just hope to see all our current customers and new faces and, just thank you for welcoming us.”
The business doesn’t yet have a website, but is open from 9 a.m to 5 p.m, Wednesday through Sunday. Customers can call 203-238-0483 for orders or inquiries.