One of Cleveland's oldest bakeries sticks to tradition for Lenten season

CLEVELAND - The beloved packzki, a traditional Polish pastry dating back to the Middle Ages. Here, in one of Cleveland’s most traditional neighborhoods, is a bakery that’s all about tradition. Presti’s was started in 1903 by Rose and Charles Presti, Sr. The bakery/deli has been in it’s current location since 1943.

“Bread was our main thing going back to the early 1900’s”, said baker Frank Sara.  He’s been with Presti’s Italian Bakery for more than 30 years. But to help celebrate holidays like Fat Tuesday, this bakery does it all.

“We try to stick basically to Italian”, Sara explained, “but we go into the other stuff too.”

Stuff like packzis. But just for today. Their “bread and butter”, so to speak, is their Italian pastry.

“I’m from an Italian family,” said customer Kevin Smith. “So it’s always really good to get those kinds of things that really feel like home.”

“Growing up,” said Sara, “I used to watch my grandmother do stuff. She’s ‘old Italian. Did everything by hand.”

That “by hand” tradition is how it’s done to this day. Not work, just a labor of love.

Sara said he likes to watch customer reactions as they gaze through the glass cases at his creations.

“I just like creating stuff. When I bring a tray out, I see customers looking at the tray. You hear the ooohhhh’s and aaahhhh’s and that’s not even tasting it.”

So which of his creations does he enjoy the most?

“Chocolate coconut bar. With all the fancy stuff I make, that’s the one thing I like the most.”

On this Fat Tuesday, the day before the beginning of the Lenten season, that should work. Along any of the other pastries that are created in the kitchen of one of Cleveland’s oldest bakeries.

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