While the news from Italy these days tends to be grim with continual reports of a stodgy economy, rising unemployment, bankruptcies and a wobbly government, in the midst of such hard times some of Italy’s businesses are still managing to do very well.
One such business is the California Bakery, a chain of nine up-market bakeries stroke restaurants which specialize in US style bread, cakes, bagels and other treats. Yes, you can find bagels in Milan.
The chain, founded in 1995 by Italian Marco D’Arrigo, and co-run with his Franco-Sicilian wife Caroline Denti, has gone from strength to strength, and very much looks as if it will keep becoming stronger too. Italians do like cheesecake, it has to be said.
Last week I was invited to the official opening of the California Bakery’s latest shop in the central Sant’Ambrogio area of Milan. The opening was held in conjunction with American Chamber of Commerce as part of Flagweek.
A California Bakery in Milan, Italy?
Now, you may be wondering, and this is understandable, just why someone would want to set up a bakery specializing in US cakes and breads in Italy, which already has rather a good reputation for its own cuisine. Well, founder Marco D’Arrigo became enamored of American style cakes and pastries after frequenting a coffee shop in Milan run by a certain Carol. D’Arrigo liked what he ate so much, he suspected other Italians would too. He asked Carol to impart her secrets to him before she returned to the States. This she did.
Shortly after a bakery fact finding mission to the USA involving visits to no less than 48 bakeries, D’Arrigo came back to Milan and opened the first five California Bakeries. And so in 1995 the bakery chain was born and became a hit with the cosmopolitan Milanese, as D’Arrigo suspected they would.
Passion, Training, and Social Media = Success
At the opening of the latest California Bakery, and while being plied with all sorts of tidbits and prosecco, all served with a smile, I had a chat with co-owner Caroline Denti and asked her what the secret of the California Bakery’s success was. Passion, training, and social media, came the reply from Caroline who explained that she has enormous respect for McDonald’s – another food organisation famed for its attention to training.
While many of Italy’s businesses are run with huge amounts of passion, they are not always so hot on the training front and this does appear to be an error. The owners of the California Bakery could teach quite a few Italian businesses a lesson or two.
Then there’s social media. Italy does not have a reputation for being the most high tech nation in the world, nor is the Boot the most connected of countries internet-wise either. This is a wasted opportunity, for via the internet one can exploit social media and if approached in the right way, social media can generate plenty of benefits for businesses, as Marco D’Arrigo and Caroline Denti know very well.
As well as passion, training, and social media, having high quality products and smiling service helps enormously.
More California Bakeries to Spring Up
D’Arrigo and Denti are not about to rest on their laurels with the opening of their latest new bakery either. The grand plan is to expand the California Bakery throughout northern Italy and beyond. Some may be pleased to hear that Florence, a popular destination with Americans, will get its own California Bakery at some time in the future.
Bringing Bagels to Milan
By the way, the dynamic, and passionate, D’Arrigo and Denti California Bakery duo also run the Bagel Factory which is bringing bagels to Milan. The Bagel Factory will also spread throughout Italy and I know that at least one American in Rome – Stephan Faris, I’m looking at you – would be more than happy to see bagels in the eternal City.
There you have it, even in Italy’s reputedly difficult business climate, the California Bakery shows success is possible with the right ingredients.
The California Bakery plus the Bagel Factory both qualify as Good Italian Things. Industrious husband and wife team Marco D’Arrigo, and Caroline Denti qualify as Good Italian People too!
More information – mainly in Italian:
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