17 January, 2020, 16:41

Viro’s cranks out thousands of loaves baked for the bakery-cafe & local restaurants daily

The bakery has been in operation since 1985.

Viro’s Real Italian Bakery and Café isn’t a fancy place. Viro’s is frills-free. It’s just solid Italian favorite foods served by kind folks who love where they work.

Several menu items stand out. The customer favorite, Meat Lasagna, is a generous portion, to say the least, of ground beef and ricotta and pasta slathered with no shortage of cheese and homemade marinara. The house balsamic salad dressing is just the right viscosity for coating the salad that makes you feel a bit less guilty about the giant pappardelle Alfredo or hand-tossed pizza you’re about to eat. And then there’s the meatball sandwich, arguably one of the best in town, which is at least partially due to the house-baked bread.

The bakery is where it’s at

Sicilian owner Viro Croce said he bakes thousands of loaves every day, supplying his restaurant as well as Piazza Gavi and others around town.

And it is with no hesitation that, when asked what he likes to eat at his restaurant, Croce states: “bread.”

 

Croce learned to bake at age 15 when he was living in Milwaukee, where he moved from Palermo with his grandparents in 1973.

“My mother’s sister married a man from our hometown, and he had a bakery and then a restaurant called Palermo Villa, where a lot of actors used to go,” he said. “Jack Burns, Frankie Valli… they all ate there.” That restaurant is closed now but has a new manifestation, Palermo’s Pizza, a small chain that employs more than 500 Wisconsinites.

Viro and his wife Rose (also from Palermo) joined one of Viro’s uncles in Tucson because they liked the weather, and he liked the desert plants. It reminded them of home, Viro said.

The couple started their own bakery in Tucson in 1985, and have been in their current location for 18 years. That means the family will be in business here for a total of 35 years: no small feat in the notoriously fickle restaurant market.

On Fridays, Viro and his crew do a fish fry, which can draw a crowd. They also cater.

Interior at Viro's Real Italian Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Interior at Viro’s Real Italian Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

But again, it’s that bakery that patrons keep coming back for, especially around the holidays.

Seasonal finds

The case is brimming with colorful pastries and vintage cookies that Italian folks will recognize from their childhood and that non-Italians would do well to get to know. There’s fresh panettone, cuccidate, pizzelles… it’s a veritable tutorial in Old World celebratory bites.

Rose is the mastermind behind the sweets, including the everyday cannoli that they stuff for you right when you order, with the delicious ricotta mixture, cherries, and chocolate chips. Viro makes the gelato, showcasing at least 10 flavors at a given time.

Gelato at Viro's Real Italian Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Gelato at Viro’s Real Italian Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

It might seem a little too cold outside right now to seek out that gelato, but trust: a lovely plate of manicotti will hit the spot. And then there are those cookies.

Location and hours

Viro’s Bakery Italian Bakery and Café is located at 8301 E. 22nd Street, near Skate Country where you might consider working up an appetite first.

Viro’s is open from Tuesday through Thursday and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on Fridays.

For more information, visit virosbakery.com.

Angela Orlando is an anthropologist who owns Wandering Writers Workshops — retreats that take writers around the world. She’s into all things plant- and animal- and food-related, especially when cheese is somehow involved. She throws pottery and eats from her own handmade plates.

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