|Matthew Benigno and Antonio Potito|
If it’s 5 a.m., there is a very good chance Antonio Potito is working. Potito’s Bakery, 1614 W. Ritner St., has been part of his seven-day-a-week routine since its 1985 opening. Luckily, he is not working alone as fellow baker and grandson, Matty Benigno, who shares ownership with his wife, Cristina Potito, assists with the baking.
“If he doesn’t come in by 5:05 [a.m.], I have three bakers calling me,” Benigno, of the 2700 block of South Colorado Street, said.
Antonio Potito’s son, Carmen, and his wife, Maria, started the Italian-American pastry shop, but he lost his battle against leukemia in 2005. The Potito legacy remains intact as Cristina Potito and Benigno took over ownership in ’09. Many of Carmen’s recipes remain part of Potito’s success story, which now has Center City and North Wildwood, N.J. locations.
“We wanted to bring our award-winning products to different areas,” Benigno, who majored in hospitality management at Widener University, said. “It’s slower in the summer [in South Philly], so we follow our clientele down the Shore.”
Other family members assist at the locations, too. Even son Gioacchino, 4, is helping out in the bakery, while younger brother Matty, 2, remains a baker in waiting.
The family decided to share the “more American” Pecan Diamonds — cookies that can be cut into three-inch or miniature sizes.
“People don’t know as much about them, but once they eat them, they come back for it,” Benigno said.
1 sheet pan of cookie dough
2-1/2 pounds of butter
2 pounds of brown sugar
1/2 pound of granulated sugar
3 cups of honey
1 cup of heavy cream
4 pounds of pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 380 degrees.
Line the bottom of a baking sheet with the cookie dough, making sure it is lipped around the edges. Bake for about 12 minutes. When the dough gets some color, remove it from the oven and set aside. Keep the oven on.
In a saucepan, melt the butter. Then add both sugars and whisk until the sugars are completely dissolved. Stir in the honey. Add the heavy cream, and once it starts to boil, add the pecans.
Pour the mixture onto the cookie dough and bake for about 20 minutes. When the pecan mixture starts to boil, remove it from the oven. Slice the cookies to desired size.
Owners: Matty and Cristina Benigno
Opened: September 1985
1614 W. Ritner St.
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