mercoledì 19 febbraio 2014

Interview with Cristina Reinecke, owner of Mama’s Bakery in Florence

by Louisa Loring

How was this bakery born here in Florence?

It was born from an idea my husband, Matt, mostly had, who is American.  We had worked for many years in business but then wanted to change direction and open Mama’s Bakery because there was nothing else like this that had bagels in Florence.

Did you two always have this dream or was it something that just came to you one day?

No, it was never a dream that we had beforehand.  It was something that actually started suddenly.

So was it hard to change the type of work you were doing all of a sudden?

Actually, at that point we had already left our old jobs and were looking for a substantial alternative to the typical, daily work we were doing beforehand.  And this was the decision we decided to make.

And where does the name Mama’s Bakery come from?

We chose the name because it is very easy to remember and a name rather known in the United States.  I had never seen any place in any part of Italy called by a name such as this so I thought it was perfect but mostly, because it is easy to remember.  Mama is a word that also makes you think of family and of the home and that is what we have tried to create, a homely feeling.  At this point, we have been open for about five and a half years.

Bacon bagel
The types of things you offer here such as bagels are not at all easy to make.  How did you learn to make these types of things?

To learn about bagels, Matt took a bagel course in the United States and then he took another course in Italy to learn how to make other types of breads.  Thus, he has used both techniques and that which he learned over the years but also, he has learned various secrets throughout the way. 

What is the hardest part of this type of work here? And the part most rewarding?

The schedule and hours that are needed for the bread making.  It is early; we could say even the night so for that, it can be difficult.  I would say the management part can be hard, working with our customers I mean.  The most rewarding part is at the same time working with our customers.  It is nice interacting with them and seeing them come in and leave happy because they don’t always come in so sure of what they will find.  New clients often come in a bit unsure of what they are getting into but they always leave with a smile on their face, which is nice to see.

Would you say your customer base is mostly American or Italian?

By now they are mostly Italian.  They probably make up about 60% of our customers.  Many of them are also American students who are studying in Florence for a year and want to come to a place where they are reminded of home. 

And would you say there was a moment in which this changed, the switch from mostly Americans to mostly Italians?

Yes, at first, our clients were mostly only American but then slowly, we tried to break into the Italian market and it worked. 

Do you try to combine American and Italian flavors together by reinventing a traditional American sandwich by adding an Italian twist?

In a way yes because there are typical Italian flavors and ingredients such as prosciutto crudo but rather than trying to bring Italian cooking into the mix we aim to add a more international element.  That is what we really try and focus on.

What is the best selling item on your menu?

Definitely the bagel with lox and cream cheese and the club sandwich mainly because they are hard to find in Florence, especially done well and here, they are very good. 

Do you have future plans for the Bakery? Maybe intentions to open another location?

We would consider opening another bakery but for now, we are very happy where we are and with what we are doing.  We have plenty to keep us busy here!

To end, do you have a piece of advice for someone who wants to open a bakery for the first time?

You need to be very strong and courageous, and have a lot of patience. You cannot be rushed and need to wait to see results because it is not instant. Like I said earlier, this idea was born quite suddenly but it was important for us not to improvise things but to learn to do things well, such as making bagels because it needs to be long lastly and of good quality because if not, people will not return.


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