Ralph Civitello arrived in America from Alvignano, Italy in 1911 at the age of 16. After working at GE in Schenectady, he decided to open an establishment dedicated to his Italian roots. In September of 1921, Civitello’s was born at its current location, 42 North Jay Street, the former site of the Vittoria Café, another Italian pastry shoppe.
In May 1922, Ralph married Rose Mastrianni and together they began to create many of the culinary traditions which have been carried throughout the years. During the difficult years of the Depression, Ralph was forced to get a full-time job at the city water department to supplement his income. However, with the support of Rose, the store remained open during this difficult time.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, the Civitellos gave birth to four daughters, who all spent tireless hours helping their parents in the store, while making their home upstairs in the apartment above the pastry shoppe.
During the mid-1940’s, the store changed its name for a short period of time to Modern Sweet Shop, before officially becoming Civitello’s Pastry Shoppe in the late 1940’s. The store continued to prosper, mainly through word of mouth throughout the next few decades, and continued to rely on the homemade family recipes. In 1967, Rose passed on, and in 1974 Ralph passed away, leaving the store (and the family secrets) to his second daughter, Katie.
Aunt Katie continued on the traditions of her parents, and worked long, laborious hours in the pastry shoppe, while serving as a surrogate matriarch for all of Ralph & Rose’s grandchildren. All the grandchildren pitched in whenever possible, especially during the busy Christmas holiday. Beatrice began her reign as head volunteer in the 1970’s. After her high school graduation in 1978, Angela became a full-time apprentice to Aunt Katie, working side by side with her for many years. Roie came into the business full-time in the late 1990’s.
When Aunt Katie passed away in 1999, she left an irreplaceable hole in the family, however her legacy lives on today. Her indomitable spirit, strong work ethic, and family traditions have been instilled in the Angerami sisters who have become the third generation to carry on the family traditions passed on from Ralph, while adding their own touch and expanding the culinary delights now served at the store.
Just like it is today, the store has always been a gathering place for young and old alike. In the olden days, friends gathered in the store to play cards for pastries, cookies, and spumoni. If you look around Civitello’s, you will see much of the same old-time charm that the store has retained over the years, such as the green and white awning, the green booths, black tables, the Viceroy ad behind the counter, and the black and white façade of the lemon ice counter.
We thank you for being our valued customers over the years and hope you can reminisce with us today about our first 80 years!