Sal Logiudice is the headliner on the marquee of great Sicilian bread bakers in New Orleans. He descends from the Ruffino and Evola families, who have baked bread in the brick ovens of New Orleans for 100 years. His great grandfather Giuseppe Ruffino emigrated from Sicily and opened Ruffino’s Bakery on St. Phillip Street in the late 1800s. His grandfather, Nicolo Evola operated Evola Bakery on Royal Street and later opened United Bakery on St. Bernard Avenue. Sal grew up next door to the bakery, and eventually took over from his father Dominick. The shop operated retail for a while, but later switched to wholesale, supplying many of New Orleans’ best Italian restaurants, such as Mosca’s and Tony Angelo’s. The labor was intense, but the job was secure. People needed bread everyday.
Sal and his family would bake the loaves at night and deliver them to the corner stores and restaurants during the day. He always carried extra loaves with him to give out like a calling card. United Bakery was famous for muffuletta loaves, which they sold to Central Grocery, as well as their paper-wrapped loaves of crusty Italian twists or “plaits” that cracked when you broke them open. The insides were made up of cotton-like strands formed by passing the hard dough through a roller called a “dough breaker.” This is the bread Sal misses the most. Around St. Joseph’s Day, the brick ovens were humming with the production of the symbolic shaped loaves for altars put up in shops and in homes. United Bakery closed and the building was sold after the floods following hurricane Katrina, interrupting the family’s long legacy. Two of the original brick ovens are still inside 1325 St. Bernard Avenue, which is currently an art gallery.
Audio production by Thomas Walsh.