The History of Allegretti's Bakery
Allegretti's Bakery may be in suburban Norridge, but it has roots in Chicago. Anthony Allegretti was a cook in the U.S. Army during World War II. When he came home in 1947, he took up a baking side gig in his uncle's basement in Chicago, putting out birthday cakes and small wedding cakes.
He got pretty good at making cakes too. So good that it was enough to be considered competition by a local bakery. So, the owners at Sarno's Pastry Shop offered Allegretti a job. He said no though. A few years later in 1952, the owners at Sarno's decided to retire. This time they approached Allegretti with a new proposal. "You didn't want to work for us", they said, "but will you buy the entire bakery?" He said yes and moved his business into Sarno's shop in Little Italy. Eventually, he moved his wife Rose and five children into the apartment above Sarno's.
In 1960, they changed the name Sarno's to Allegretti's and moved the bakery to Park Ridge. Linda Ahern, Allegretti's daughter, who runs the business now with her brother, said the Park Ridge location was a disaster. There wasn't enough Italian clientele for an Italian bakery to work. So they "limped along" for two years, she said, before moving into the bakery's current spot in Norridge in 1962.
Along the way, Allegretti's gained fame for enormous wedding cakes. Like Ferrara, the bakery made cakes for peanut weddings. The cakes were so tall that Anthony would have to climb a ladder to cut it, and flanking the cake on both sides were smaller treat towers filled with castagnoles. Allegretti got so good at making wedding cakes that he started to put a little extra showmanship into it. "He was one of the first people to put a fountain in the center of a cake," Ahern said. "One cake, he had it set up, and when everyone was standing around it going, this is really pretty he flipped a switch in the back. Lights came on up top and a fountain in the cake started to run."
Large wedding cakes eventually went out of style, but Allegretti's had plenty of other treats to keep business going strong. Think with classic Italian cookies, filled-as-you-order cannoli, sfogliatelle, pasticiotto, baba rum, and the signature items: the chocolate donuts and the chocolate-frosted pound cake. On the holidays, the bakery did a brisk business of lamb cakes, gingerbread houses, and casatiello. But nothing beats Allegretti's zeppole. They were featured on Chicago's Best one year and the bakery was completely swarmed.