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Giuliano’s Bakery celebrates 25 years as Niantic staple

East Lyme — For Giuliano’s Donut and Bake Shop, its simply all about the bread.

A staple of Niantic’s Main Street since relocating from its previous New London Bank Street location in 1994, the bakery, with its nondescript exterior — aside from its signature life-sized Italian-baker statue — and a no-frills, yet classic, interior, is typically marked by a near-constant morning stream of customers hungry for the bakery’s signature New York-style bagels and breakfast sandwiches, as well as a wide variety of cookies, pastries and delicate desserts.

Recently celebrating its 25th year located in its downtown Niantic location, Giuliano’s treated its most loyal of customers with a 60-foot grinder in celebration of the signature grinders that Joe Giuliano said the bakery is most well-known for.

“I think it’s the bread that makes them special,” said  Joe Giuliano, who is 38 and who co-owns the bakery with his father, Jack, after he took over the business from his father 45 years ago. “It’s the oven we have, which is from 1981. They just don’t make them like that anymore. We bake our bread right on the shelf, which is like the difference between something like pizza in a pan or going to Frank Pepe’s and putting the pizza right on the shelf. That’s where the flavor comes from.”

But aside from the bakery’s oven, the Giuliano’s signature bread also comes down to something more — It’s the original family recipe Giuliano’s grandfather formulated and mastered in Brooklyn, N.Y., after immigrating from Sicily in the 1930s as a young teenager and finding a job as a baker, Joe Giuliano said.

“It’s been passed through the generations,” he said. “We still make our bread the original way.”

First learning to bake his bread “from an older gentleman” in Brooklyn after arriving to New York, Giuliano explained that his grandfather — who has the same name — opened what would become the first rendition of Giuliano’s bakery in a Brooklyn storefront in 1938 at the age of 18.

Eventually seeking to retire, however, Giuliano said his grandfather moved his family to East Lyme in the late 1960s where he then couldn’t help but continue the family business in New London.

At that point, his son Jack Giuliano, who still co-owns the bakery, took over the family business. But after more than 20 years in New London, the family moved the bakery closer to their Niantic home in a move Joe Giuliano said was a “great decision.”

Besides “being closer to home,” he said he is most proud that his bakery has become a part of the fabric of the Niantic community, providing his loyal customer base with bread made from a decades-long tradition passed on through the generations.

Though Joe said he can’t remember the exact moment he learned to bake bread, he said he’s spent his whole life working behind-the-scenes in the bakery, first starting at the age of 6 or 7 by “corn-mealing baking sheets and helping deliver and pack bread” and then later “working and stretching bread” by the time he was 11 or 12. After graduating high school at 18, Giuliano said he came to work full-time at the bakery, becoming its co-owner 15 years ago.

“A lot of my learning was from watching,” he said. “I would watch and I would say let me try. And boom I had it. It just came naturally.”

Now mostly dealing with the behind-the-scenes work needed to run a business, Joe Giuliano said his dozen employees are responsible for the baking in what he described as a “24-hour operation.” Arriving at the bakery around 1 p.m. and finishing their first batches by 7 p.m., Giuliano said baking continues “all throughout the night.” In the morning, then, bread is shipped out to dozens of grinder and pizza restaurants around the state — from Westerly to Middletown — as part of a wholesale business that stands as the bread and butter, so to speak, keeping the Giuliano Bakery in business through all the years and changes, Giuliano said.

“(The business) has definitely grown, even though when we first came here, (Main Street) was totally different,” Giuliano said. “We’ve seen so many businesses come and go, and we were just lucky to find our niche here and every year just get bigger and bigger.”

m.biekert@theday.com

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