Five generations of the Caputo family have built on tasty Italian traditions in the heart of the Cobble Hill neighborhood.
story & photos by Bakery Boy
When my nephew Nick, who grew up in the same family bakery I did, recommended Caputo Bakery in Brooklyn, I knew it would be special. Nick is as much of a Bakery Boy as I am, with a similar lifelong habit of sampling bakeshops everywhere. During five years of living in New York City, he’s scoped out some winners.
James Caputo, who worked 10 years as a Wall Street stock trader before rejoining the family trade alongside his now semi-retired father James, represents the 5th generation to run the business established in 1904 by his Sicily-born great-great-grandfather in Brooklyn’s largely Italian Cobble Hill neighborhood. That beats my clan by a couple of decades (I’m a 3rd-gen baker, Nick is a 4th), but I felt right at home. “Few people know it,” James says, “but my mother’s dad had a bakery too, a couple of blocks from my dad’s, so I’ve got bakery ancestors on both sides.”
Even from outside, I was impressed by the variety of great-looking breads stacked on trays and in baskets in the front window. Without hesitation I bought a crusty loaf of French bread for $1.90 to snack on while I checked out the rest. Before long I was asking a saleswoman—who sniffed at, but politely ignored, my crumb-dropping—to bag up a loaf each of Semolina Golden Raisin (with fennel), Multigrain (with whole wheat, oats, sunflower seeds, millet, flax, and cracked wheat), Cranberry Walnut Multigrain, and Sweet Onion Focaccia.
“Wha, you don’t want the Scalita and the Olive bread too?” the saleslady mock-scolded while packing my order. Okay, I conceded, add one each of those—the first a dense, dry Sicilian loaf good for dunking in soup, the second glistening with an olive oil smear. I lived off of Caputo’s bread and hardly anything else for the next couple of days, with a smile on my face.
“LARD BREAD” The name seems more like a warning than a selling point in these health-conscious days, but Caputo’s has a loyal following for its rich, flaky, fat-friendly loaves ($4.25 each). Break one open and spy chunks of pork salami, bits of melted provolone cheese, and specks of course black pepper. It’s an acquired taste, habit forming to some but worth a try to all. (To see a photo of Caputo’s Lard Bread, click here for a recent Village Voice article.)
BEYOND BREADS Bread takes center stage at Caputo’s, but this well-rounded Italian bakery produces other noteworthy goodies too. Excellent biscotti, butter cookies, and tart little lemon cookies stand out. They also make beautiful strawberry and other fruit pies, chocolate layer cakes, pound cakes, cupcakes, and brownies.
SIXTH IN TRAINING? People in family businesses get asked all the time: Is a next generation, a 6th in this case, coming along? “My kids are just 6 and 7 years old,” James says, “so let’s not put that pressure on them anytime soon. My dad encouraged me to go out and try something else, and I did, but I couldn’t be happier now that I’m back here. We work long, hard days and have three trucks delivering to restaurants, grocery stores, and institutions, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We know most of the people who walk in the front door because Caputo Bakery has been a part of this community for a very long time.”
LOCATION 329 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (near the corner of Court and Sackett, two blocks from the New York subway system’s Carroll Street Station)
HOURS Mon-Sat 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun 6:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.