SOUTHINGTON — After hitting a company record of more than 1.3 million bagels sold last year, Fancy Bagels owners thought they were on track to surpass that this year.
While the pandemic disrupted those hopes, as well as plans for expansion, owners are optimistic about the future and proud that they didn’t have to shut their doors even temporarily.
“You’ve got to stick to stuff, you can’t panic,” said Dominick Gualtieri, a co-owner.
Fancy Bagels at 405 Queen St. celebrated 30 years in business in 2020. The company also has a Farmington location.
Other than the plain, Gualtieri said their most popular bagel is the “everything bagel.” The restaurant has its own bagel recipe and makes them from scratch, using both a boiling and a steaming system that Gualtieri keeps a secret. The technique gives the bagels a crunchy outer crust and a soft inside.
Pino and Silvana Belcaro, Italian immigrants, started the Southington Fancy Bagels location in 1990, shortly after buying the Farmington restaurant. Their son, Sal Belcaro, is still co-owner of the business.
The Belcaros brought the restaurant’s signature technique from New York for a result that has won awards, Gualtieri said. Along with hard work, the popular bagels have also helped draw customers for the past three decades.
“There’s a lot of sacrificing that goes into it,” Gualtieri said. “I went a good 20 years working with no vacation, only taking three days off a year.”
He started as a baker in 1996 and bought the Southington restaurant in 2002 from Pino and Silvana Belcaro. When the couple also decided to retire and sell the Farmington location, he joined with Sal Belcaro and bought that as well and reunited the restaurantPandemic impact
- Address: 405 Queen St., Southington.
- Hours:Mon. - Fri. 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.; Sat. 7 a.m. - 2 p.m.; Sun. 7 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
- Phone: 860-621-0055
- Website: www.fancybagel.com/
When COVID-19 first hit earlier this year, Gualtieri said customers were sparse. Things did improve although the restaurant now closes at 2 p.m.
“We didn’t close down at all this year through any of it. We had to adjust the inside,” Gualtieri said.
In 2014, restaurant owners and others started Fancy Burgers n’ Franks next to the Fancy Bagels location. That restaurant closed down and was incorporated into Fancy Bagels with some of the menu still available. That extra room made things easier this year, although the Fancy Burgers menu was streamlined.
“Hopefully next year we can pick it up, bring back things like the cheese fries,” Dominick Gualtieri said.Plans for the future
Gualtieri had planned to add more vegan items to the menu, such as meat and egg alternatives. He’s still hoping to do so but wants to stick with the basics until business is closer to normal.
Gualtieri, a vegan, said the bagels are made without animal products. He doesn’t advertise that but has seen more demand for vegan food lately.
“I realized there’s such a market for stuff like that,” he said.
Gualtieri said he and Belcaro have been considering a second location for some time. They’re working on a Plantsville location but aren’t sure about an opening date.
“It kind of depends on what the governor does” with pandemic restrictions, Gualtieri said.‘One big family’
Some of Fancy Bagels’ customers have been eating there for almost as long as the restaurant has been in business. Gualtieri knows a few who were boyfriend and girlfriend decades ago.
“Now they’re married and their kids are coming in,” he said. “We love everybody. It’s like one big family. A lot of the people who come in, we already know what they’re going to order.”
Barbara Coleman-Hekeler, Southington Chamber of Commerce president, said Fancy Bagels and any other business that’s been operating for 30 years has been able to weather three different recessions.
“It’s definitely impressive to see that businesses have been able to sustain,” she said.
Fancy Bagels owners have supported chamber events over the years. Coleman-Hekeler said it was a great, family-owned company.