Bellavia! A name that sounds like an aria, a household name in the Neapolitan region. Since 1925, the bakery has been selling a wide range of pastries and cakes, creations inspired by traditions and made from the best ingredients. Customers come from far and wide for the cassata, sfogliatelle, panettone and pizzette. In addition to the three shops in Naples, the family has also opened a Bellavia bakery at Capodichino Airport. Entrepreneurship runs in this family’s blood. How do they keep growing their business? Listen to their story.
Pasticceria Vincenzo Bellavia just keeps on growing, even after almost 100 years. How do they do it? That’s exactly what we asked them during our visit to their production site just outside the city. We were warmly welcomed by Antonio Bellavia Junior, the fourth generation of bakers in the family.
His father, Lucio Bellavia, is responsible for the production. He checks the ingredients and ensures that the recipes are followed to the letter. Tradition and innovation, these are two keywords in this family's success story. A story that's hard to replicate, says Lucio.
Check out our interview with Lucio Bellavia
Lucio Bellavia: "Today we are a large-scale traditional bakery. We don’t have industrial production lines, but we do have a lot of work surfaces and kneading machines. We have always combined craftsmanship and technology, tradition and innovation. Our latest step into the foodservice sector, especially restaurants and hotels, testifies to this. We don’t create cakes for this sector, because everyone is doing that. We focus on mini-cakes, miniature versions of our pastries."
Bellavia: back to basics
The Bellavia family has also made changes in terms of the ingredients they use; out with the margarine and vegetable fats, and back to using only real butter and cream.
Lucio Bellavia:“The Prima Blanca cream from Debic is absolutely fantastic.We give it 10 out of 10. We’re always working with and storing our creations in the refrigerator, so the 2% extra fat content in the Prima Blanca is ideal for us. For our pastries we prefer to use Top Tourage Gold butter. A unique product, absolutely essential when you’re making puff pastry."
From Sicily to Naples
This family has been innovating for many years (and generations!) now. The Pasticceria Vincenzo Bellavia story starts in Sicily, where grandfather Antonio was born in Palermo. He was crazy about patisserie, but the area in which he lived was very poor. So he moved north and ended up in Naples.
Once there, he initially started out by supplying other patisseries with the hollow biscuits for ‘cannoli’ and making almond dough that, at that time, wasn’t being prepared in Neapolitan bakeries. A few years later, in 1925, he opened the first patisserie. And thus began the Bellavia story, with one foot in Sicilian and the other foot in Neapolitan tradition. Now it’s the turn of the fourth generation of bakers. Antonio Bellavia Junior represents the future of the family business.
Neapolitan pastry is simpler and less striking than that of other regions.
Lucio Bellavia: “For me, the decoration on Parisian cakes is far too over the top. It might taste good, but I think it’s too much, and that has disadvantages. Then I think: “I’m not going to eat it because it looks too nice.You don’t destroy something that looks that good.” In our tradition, we exercise restraint when it comes to decorating cakes; it's more about the ingredients and the flavours. We have the ‘lievitati’ or breakfast cakes, and we also have the typical traditional products like the ‘sfogliatella’, which you eat as a mid-morning snack. Both sfogliatella and baba make great afternoon snacks, too. And we also have a selection of savoury pastries.So we never stop."
Bellavia offers delicacies for every eating moment of the day, and they are all of the very highest artisanal quality. And that means Bellavia is entirely in tune with the times.
Lucio: "For around mealtimes, we have a substantial assortment of classic and rustic mini pizzas and sweet-savoury combinations, such as crumb tarts filled with savoury ricotta, which provide a beautiful contrast of flavours.In short, we have a wide selection of products for any time of the day.”
Reaching the entire world
Of course, time hasn’t stood still since Antonio Bellavia senior was at the helm. Logistically speaking, there are many more possibilities than there were before, and Bellavia is eager to deliver its products far beyond the Italian border. Can you do that with fresh pastries, cakes and treats? You sure can!
Lucio: “You can now deliver everything within 48 hours, for example with DHL and thanks to special systems and packaging. We can even use dry ice to deliver small quantities to any destination. And then there are the traditional logistics platforms: a pallet full of pastries and cakes can go anywhere. Our products are shipped (almost) all over the world, as long as we can fill up a pallet."
Bellavia's advice for young people?
Lucio: "My first piece of advice: First decide what you want to do. You need to understand that, if you choose to become a patissier, you will have to work on Sundays and on every holiday. That’s not easy to combine with a family. So it’s probably a good idea to talk to your partner about it first. Many bakers work hard for ten years only to change jobs because it just isn’t how they want to live their life. So if you think about everything first and know what you’re getting yourself into, and then decide: "I want to do this type of work", you've already taken a huge step."
"Don’t spend too much time admiring star chefs, they live on another planet"
"My second piece of advice is: keep it real and don’t spend too much time admiring star chefs, because they live on another planet. The real market is very different. You really have to keep up with trends and developments. If you do, you’re guaranteed to satisfy your customers!”
Bellavia has a wonderful story, with 100 years of history.
Lucio: "All in all, it's become par for the course that we’re good at making delicious pastries and cakes. It can be hard for newcomers to write their own story, of course, especially if they have a dad who is a doctor or something else. But nowadays, stories are also made up.” You could never copy Bellavia's story, but can you get inspired by it? Certainly.
Some of the Bellavia customers’ favourites:
- Cassata with candied fruit, the one and only
- Cannoli Siciliani and Nido di Rondine, two favourites
- Babárini, miniature babas with limoncello and rum
- Pizzette, mini-pizzas, and friturine, savoury fried specialties
- Homemade sweets
Tips for a perfect Baba
The baba al rhum is a true classic that can bring an exotic element to your range.
If you are ever in the Naples area, don’t forget to pop into one of the Bellavia bakeries.
Get a taste at www.pasticceriabellavia.it