How a small Italian bakery grew into a 90-year-old family legacy

This series, made possible with the support of Macomb County, captures the stories of how residents and visitors live, work, and play in the region.
When Virginia Stolarski first visited Jim Bommarito's Dolceria-Palermo in 1965, she was looking to try the subs her friends and neighbors had raved about. Little did she know, she’d meet her future friends and neighbors. 

The legacy of the family bakery is now continued by a third generation: sisters Christine Corrado, Roseanne Valenti, and Grace Adams. Their grandfather, Jim Bommarito — who emigrated from Terrasini in Sicily, Italy — and his wife Rose started the business in Detroit in 1925. 
Jim and Rose Bommarito opened their own store in 1934 at Cadillac Boulevard and Forest Avenue. Photo Supplied.
The couple’s only child, Grace Bommarito, worked at the expanded store off Cadillac Boulevard and Forest Avenue and lived above the bakery with her parents before eventually marrying Sam Valenti — with whom she had four daughters of her own. 

“[My mother] married my dad, and my dad moved us over here to St. Clair Shores in our home in 1952, but my grandparents still had the bakery in Detroit,” Corrado says. “Consequently, because my mother was the only child, every weekend on Saturday and Sunday, we would drive out to my grandpa's in Detroit from St. Clair Shores, and we would spend the weekends up over there.”

Sam Valenti worked in produce, but during the weekend visits, his father-in-law taught him the bakery business. 

“Us kids grew up in it, and then when the neighborhood started turning, my dad got my grandparents to move over here to St. Clair Shores — actually right next door to the home that we grew up in — and built the building in St. Clair Shores,” Corrado says. “It opened up on March 6 of 1961.” 

The family has expanded the menu during the 61 years in the new location. When Jim and Rose Bommarito first opened the bakery, they sold only Italian cookies, lemon ice, gelato, and wedding cakes. 

Corrado calls her father “the real entrepreneur” who brought the breadmaker to the bakery. He had a vision of what more the business could do, so he had the best of the best teach him how to make new products. 

Photo Supplied / Bommarito Bakery

Now the bakery boasts a large menu of bread baked fresh daily, subs, pizzas, Italian cookies — the majority of which are Jim Bommarito’s original recipes — pastries, and more. The store also offers a selection of thousands of wines and champagnes from around the world, the rarest of which are kept in an underground temperature-controlled wine cellar.

“Our cannolis are really good,” Corrado says. “That’s probably the Cadillac of the bakery — I always say that when I talk to somebody because people come from all over for cannolis.” 

“If you ask my favorite, I’m torn between the muffaletta and the subs food-wise, but my ultimate favorite is the cuccidata, and that’s an Italian fig cookie with chocolate chips and almonds,” Stolarski says. 

A long-time customer, Stolarksi and her husband moved to St. Clair Shores in 1978, into a home only three houses away from Corrado and four houses down from Roseanne Valenti. Not only a customer, but now a neighbor and friend, Stolarski helps the family. 

Customer and supporter, Virginia Stolarski shares her love of the neighborhood bakery with other customers. Photo: Chris Estrada.

When business restrictions were in place in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Stolarski helped enforce social distancing, capacity limits, and mask rules at the bakery. Since then, every week Stolarski picks up baked goods and other meals from the sisters and delivers them to a local pantry — Deo Gratias at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Detroit. 

“They donate every Tuesday and Friday and they are super generous,” Stolarski says. 

That generosity and passion for community is the heart of their business — among not only the family, but the whole team. About eight to 10 employees work with the sisters, and Corrado and her sisters say they could not run the business without them. 

“It's a family affair,” Corrado says. “We work together. It can be challenging at times, but we all love each other, and the people that work for us, they're our family too […] We’ve been around a lot of years, and our patronage is incredible.” 

The bakery has had customers who came in as children who now bring their children and grandchildren along. Corrado feels blessed to have been in the community so long and to have become friends with their customers. 

“I know for a fact people come from out of state — when they're in town to visit their family and loved ones, they make it a point to be there to take back the baked goods, subs, you name it, to where they live now,” Stolarski says. “I experienced that firsthand while I was doing the door mandate, because people were standing in line, and everybody got to know everybody from talking, so I heard a lot of stories of people coming from all around the United States back to get their fix.” 

Photo: Chris Estrada.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.