Lisa Sacchetta knows when a customer is a former regular of Giambruno's Bakery, the establishment that preceded her current panetteria/pasticceria on St. Rocco's Pl., because they'll ask for a Junior instead of a hero.
"This has been a bakery since 1940," she said.
She and her husband, John, bought the property in 1991, and the business changed hands several times before closing after a small fire in 2007.
It sat vacant until the Sacchetta's, who own a wholesale bakery in Farmingdale, decided to revive the longtime bread shop.
The plan derailed when a Sep. 2011 blaze tore through the building, burning hot enough to melt the siding of houses across the street and spreading to the Sacchetta's adjacent garage. The fire was ruled arson by the Nassau County Police Department's Arson Squad, but a suspect was never arrested.
"It was so devastating that someone could do that to us. This was intentional, and it hurts," said Lisa, adding that her mother-in-law has trouble sleeping through the night due to the trauma.
The community's support was important to getting through the aftermath, and the support has continued through the bakery's opening two years later.
"Business has been consistent," Lisa said. The building never lost power during Hurricane Sandy, becoming a hot spot for local residents to warm up, charge cell phones and sit with each other as the outages dragged on.
The building's interior is considerably more open than the previous bakery, with high ceilings and warm lighting and colors.
"We didn't want that white, sterilized look of a bakery that you see sometimes," said Lisa.
A brick oven commands the room, made by an oven builder the Sacchetta's brought in from Pompeii.
A host of different loaves come out of that oven, including an olive bread Lisa said is a specialty and a Brooklyn-style Pugliese loaf, with its thick, crisp crust and airy inside. Slicing reveals air pockets the size of quarters or larger, and the flavor pays homage to the loaves piled at street markets in Italy.
A colorful assortment of pastries fill the bakery's cases. The Sacchetta's daughter Alexis, 18, works at the shop when she's not in class at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan.
Their other daughter, Corinna, 21, also works there. Her influence is driving the bakery to experiment with organic, vegetarian and vegan baking, Lisa said.
The shop's signature cake, a mousse/cheesecake combination, is also available in an individual portion, one of more than a dozen varieties of gourmet desserts topped with glazed pieces of fruit or shards of fine chocolate jutting up at jaunty angles.
Photos of many of the bakery's products can be viewed on its Facebook page.
Gelato is a coming attraction, said Lisa, who attended a gelato-making school in North Carolina with her husband.
But the business means more to its owners and customers than its products. Lisa said people often come in and reminisce, sharing memories of leaving Mass at St. Rocco's and stopping by the bakery, and eating half a loaf of bread in the car before getting home.
"Everyone has the same story to tell but in different words," she said.
It's the kind of place Lisa said her family wanted to bring back, where people can come in and feel a sense of comfort.
"It was needed," she said.