Updated: Jun 26, 2022
Every Thanksgiving when I was a kid, my dad, my grandfather, and I would get up before dawn and head to Fairfield to get on line and wait for bread. Not just any bread, mind you. Bread from Calandra’s. Four ingredients, baked fresh every hour. This tradition started back when my dad was a kid, but they would go to the original location in Newark, and it continues today.
When I was putting together the guest list for the Greetings From the Garden State podcast, there were plenty of places I had on my list but Calandra’s was at the top. To learn more about how this Essex County institution started, I connected with Thomas Calandra, part of the third-generation running the family business started by his grandfather.
As I mentioned, I had been to the Calandra’s Bakery in Fairfield and had stopped into the Newark location (not the actual original, but pretty close) for some bread and pastries in the past. However, I had never been to the Caldwell location, the “Calandra’s Italian Village.” Walking in, it’s an oasis of everything someone would want looking for Italian food. Obviously at the center of the building is the bakery, offering up all the bread we here in North Jersey have come to love. On one end is an Italian deli, complete with sandwiches, homemade pastas and sauces, wine, meats, cheeses, you name it they most likely have it. On the other end is Il Vecchio Cafe, one of their restaurants and that’s where we sat down to chat.
Talking with Thomas you can feel the passion he has for the family business. I mentioned to him at one point during the interview, there is an old saying about family businesses, “the first generation starts it, the second generation grows it, and the third generation kills it.” I did not mean to come across in an attacking way because clearly the business continues to expand, but Thomas appreciated that I did not sugar coat it. Thomas, his sister, and his cousin all are a part of the business and committed to continuing the legacy his grandfather started. Their work ethic is instilled in them by the generations before them, but with their own personal flair and approach given the times they grew up in. It became clear very quickly during this interview the family business is in good hands moving forward.
I made sure to grab some bread and a sandwich from the deli before I left. It did not disappoint. Consistency is key in just about any business and tasting the bread seemingly transports you back to 1962 when the first location opened. It’s perfect.
If you have not had a chance to grab something from a Calandra’s location, or pick up a loaf from a local grocery store that carries their products, you are missing out.
You can listen to the full episode here: https://linktr.ee/greetingsfromthegardenstate