Order this... Tasty baked goods at Aldo’s Bakery
When I first started coming to Block Island in 1989, my husband told me we had to get Portuguese sweet bread from Aldo’s, toast it, and slather it with freshly made blackberry jam. We’d eat it while we were here on vacation and always grabbed a loaf right before we got on the ferry.
What I never questioned was this: How does an Italian bakery and ice cream shop end up making their own amazing, authentic Portuguese sweet bread? I went straight to the source — Aldo Leone, who owns Aldo’s and has worked there since he was six years old. He explained that when his dad left Italy and came to America, he worked in Seekonk, Mass., as a baker. The south coast of Massachusetts was and still is home to a large Portuguese community, and when Leo Sr. came out to Block island in 1955, he brought the recipe with him. He worked as the head baker at The Spring House and Narragansett, and then in 1970 opened the bakery in the old fire barn where it stands today.
Aldo started working on the boat delivering baked goods to the boats in Great Salt Pond, and now takes great pride in the bakery where everything is made from scratch — from the bread to the ice cream to the orange juice, which is fresh-squeezed and bottled right behind the counter. The kitchen is a fantastic mix of old and new; while the entire place was renovated 10 years ago to expand the café and add rooms above, there is a working 48-year old Hobart mixer and and a well-loved 51-year old slab of butcher block atop an old table that lend a gravitas to the new equipment that it surrounds. It is a place of pride, for the history that has come before it and how far Aldo has taken it with his partners Steve Papa and his head chef Johnny Levesque.
What is your favorite thing to make at the bakery?
Johnny: The ice cream; I love making it. My favorite flavor is Oreo — underrated because it has a lot of complex flavor to it.
Aldo: The cakes because they have such a “wow” factor. We’ve got a chocolate ganache with strawberries and a toasted coconut with raspberries that are amazing.
What do you wish more people would try because it’s so good?
Johnny: The tiramisu; it’s really really good and rich and delicious.
Aldo: The eclairs — the custard, the fudge topping, the homemade eclair shells make it so decadent and great to eat.
What’s the one thing you’d never eat again?
Who’s your most memorable customer?
Johnny: There’s this kid, Aiden, he’s seven and I’ve watched him grow up — his family are boaters, and I started out on the boat delivering pastries and they’ve watched me grow up and now I get to watch their kids grow up. So Aiden, he sees me and shouts “Adiamo!” which means “Let’s go!” in Italian.
Aldo: I would also say the boaters, and also the ones who are doing these scavenger hunts on the island and one of the things is to get a picture and signature with Aldo. They’re pretty memorable!
Where do you go to eat when you’re not eating here and what do you order?
Aldo: I go to Ballard’s or Dead Eye’s and get the steak. I’m a carnivore and love a steak.
Johnny: I go to Dead Eye’s and get the roasted Statler Chicken. I know exactly what dish I want to order from most of the places around here.
Aldo and Johnny: And, the chicken parm and chicken Alfredo at Aldo’s (next door) is another go-to.
Aldo was happy to serve me a plethora of items beyond the usual bakery fare of pastries, breads, cakes and pies. The cold brew is new this year and comes in several flavors, including vanilla and hazelnut. It’s richer and less bitter than regular coffee yet has more caffeine, and the taste appealed to many of the customers around me who all commented that this was some of the best cold brew they’ve ever had. Aldo’s also has a nitro cold brew that Aldo likens to a Guinness; it’s even smoother than the regular brew and has a deeper coffee taste. My friend and I also sampled the fresh-squeezed orange juice, which was a perfect accompaniment to a delicious breakfast sandwich. A homemade everything bagel perfectly toasted with lox, fresh arugula, tomato and capers is an excellent way to eat a healthy meal — no cream cheese needed. The lox is thick cut and generous portions make for a salty, sweet, and creamy tasting meal.
We finished the tasting with Aldo’s newest addition to his ice cream menus — exotic ice cream flavors. A chalkboard lists the “cool new flavors” of Salted Caramel, Twisted Turtle, Fudgy Cheesecake and Stormy Night. We tried each and thought them excellent, but the best flavor by far is the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. The rhubarb is fresh from The Spring House garden, the crust is made from scratch, and the strawberries mixed in with the ice cream make each bite one to savor. Aldo likes to make the ice cream according to the season, so look for blackberry ice cream in August and perhaps some roasted cherry goat cheese ice cream in the fall. History, culinary innovation, and tradition await you at Aldo’s. Come hungry and leave happy.