Find a Restaurant

Dortoni Bakery & La Bonne Boulangerie The Scent of Sweet Success

By: Maria Orlando Pietromonaco

When Lello Messina started in the bakery business, European cakes and pastries were new, as were specialty and theme cakes. Now known for their exquisitely decorated cakes and some of the finest Italian pastries around, Dortoni Bakery is a culinary landmark celebrated for its spectacular sweets.

Lello’s rich background in the baking arts is a tremendous component to their success. His ability to contribute his first-hand experience and superior talent is indispensable. Lello had apprenticed for his father, who was a master baker in Naples, Italy, where both generations were born and raised. His grandfather was also a master baker in Naples. His father and grandfather had a well-known
bakery Pasticceria Orsi Hich in the upper-crust area of Naples called Vomero. The bakery was open and run by the family for 28 years.

After years of being groomed as a baker, Lello came to the U.S. in 1971. But when he arrived, his anticipated baking enterprise was halted by some unexpected logistical issues. He faced all kinds of difficulties — the weights and measurements were different than what he was used to, ingredients were different, and there was also the language barrier to contend with.

But he worked through it, and one of his first endeavors in the baking arena was working for an Austrian bakery with an Austrian pastry chef on Madison Ave. in NYC. He stayed there for 2 years before he got the itch to venture out on his own. He decided to look for his own shop, which he found after searching for a year and a half. Lello bought Dortoni Bakery from its previous owners, Dora and Tony. Lacking the money to change the sign, he left it and kept the name. After six months he resolved to keep the name Dortoni, as he was getting the recognition he needed.

Dortoni is most known for their Italian pastries and wedding cakes, and “very old-school Sicilian specialties” like sculiai cassata, a round cake with cannoli filling, mascarpone, candied fruit, and strega liqueur. The cakes are prepared from his grandfather’s recipes, his father’s recipes and his son’s — they mix the old and new. They also create French and European sweets as well.

Lello always believed that “you can’t limit your product.” His winning philosophy is to “embrace all the needs of the community with your cakes and sweets.” St. Patrick’s day is popular, so he makes soda bread for the occasion. Dortoni also makes honey cakes, mandel bread, and challah for the Jewish holidays. Their demographics also help determine what they will make. Today Dortoni does a tremendous retail business as well as for country clubs and caterers.

Dortoni’s success is directly connected to Lello’s deep commitment to innovation and quality. There is a rock on his desk with the word “integrity” engraved in it. “Whether you spend $10 or $1000 on a wedding cake the quality is of utmost importance, but the price relationship means something too.” If you spend a small fortune on a cake for that special day, you can be assured that it is not only going to taste like a little bit of heaven, but look like an artistic masterpiece as well.

An essential part of the Dortoni empire is their baking team. They hand-picked their players as any great sports team would, and before placing a potential employee they determine the talent of an individual and match them to the job that best suits them. Their leading cake designer is Janet Ben-Ami. All staff is trained in-house, and only those with artistic inclination will be given the job of decorating the cakes.

Family means the world to Lello. He met his wife Donna, who was American-born girl, and fell in love with her immediately. Two of his three sons, Donnie and Corey, who both graduated from Boston University with a business degree, are partners in all the different businesses the family owns, which include Dortoni, La Bonne Boulangerie (Port Jefferson & East Norwich), Luce Restaurant, Messina Market and Messina Express, as well as the soon-to-open Red Tomato (an artisanal Neopolitan pizzeria). His youngest son, Lucca, plans to become a sports attorney. Donna is involved in her own undertaking, a boutique called “Girlfriends” located in same shopping center as Messina Market and La Bonne Boulangerie.

“There’s a little sacrifice on the family, especially during the holiday seasons,” explains Lello. “I have great daughters-in-law, (although he calls them his daughters), five grandchildren, and the sixth on the way.” They are a family in the truest sense.

Though Lello has his hands in several shops and bakeries, Dortoni, which has been awarded “best bakery on Long Island” for the past 6 years by Newsday, holds a special place in his heart. He was only 21 years old when he first opened its doors. It’s now been 35 years, and Lello feels “truly fortunate” for all that has come his way.