Let’s get to know some local favorites and hidden treasures in Delaware. This week we are going to get to know Fortunata’s Bakery, a local Italian bakery located in Milford, Delaware. I had the amazing opportunity to interview the owner Ruth Clifton. I found Ruth’s story fascinating, she began working at Bread N Butter Bakery, located at this very same location 25 years ago. She worked part time in the store which led to helping out in the back with her eager to learn attitude. Even as a wife of a farmer and mother of 7 children at the time but still found time to work early mornings Monday through Thursday and even longer hours Friday and Saturday learning the bakery business under the then owner, Armand. Armand decided to retire at the young age of 80 and Ruth jumped in to help keep the love of baking alive.
Ruth decided she wanted to change the name of the bakery to reflect the change of ownership and decided to honor the memory of Armand by naming the bakery after Armand’s cat, Fortunata. Many faithful bakery customers took this to know that the bakery would continue to provide all the same breads and rolls they had grown to love. Ruth shared very fond memories of Armand and how he helped her learn the business and how he gave her the confidence to make this bakery her own. She was saddened to tell me of his passing three years ago and emphasized how much she missed him. She has been open for six years this past March. Her son Patrick plays a big role in the bakery. Both Ruth and Patrick work long hours to ensure there is fresh bread available each day. Typically she will work an average of 60 hours in a week’s time even though the bakery itself is only open Thursday through Sunday.
Fortunata’s, for those who have not had the opportunity to experience the tasty treats, is an Italian bakery, specializing in hearth baked breads and rolls. They have their own receipes and mix fresh dough every night for the morning baking. Along with their breads and rolls, they also offer a variety of speciality treats like sticky buns (yes they are amazing), scones, conches, cookies, filled danishes and other sweets, and just as the breads these are all made fresh every day. Some days they even sell out and will close down early if so. Each day they will also offer a special bread some of them being, ciabatta, multi-grain, raisin bread, sourdough, rosemary olive, tomato pie, focaccia. Their best selling item is their point rolls: a six inch long roll, made from their roll dough, pointed at each end.
One thing I have noticed being in the Milford area is how this community seems to be very connected and how the local small businesses have a desire to give back to the community. One of the ways Fortunata gives back to the community is what they do with any leftover items. Every week they will donate breads, rolls and sweets to various places like the local food bank, People’s Place and Home of the Brave.
The best advice that Ruth remembers Armand giving her is “the hen grows fat under the watchful eye of the farmer.” Ruth says she is at the bakery every day. She is not only making the baked goods but she is making the relationships with the customers and being available for her staff. Patrick and herself have great confidence in each other and their staff are like additional family to them. They know that she is available at any time and she knows she can trust them.
When I asked about the customers, Ruth told me that most that find the bakery become repeat customers. The community of Milford is a diverse background of individuals. She finds it very heartwarming seeing all the varieties of ages and ethnicities lined up waiting their turn to make their purchases happily chatting with one another. She has had a few transplants from Philadelphia and New York who have made a point to tell her that when they found her bakery and tried the breads, that it brought tears to their eyes because it tasted just like what they remembered growing up with and they thought they may never find again. What could be a better compliment than that.
I highly recommend making a little trip to Milford, Delaware the next time your family decides to head on their Delaware beach vacation and experience this bakery yourself. If you are local and maybe haven’t had the opportunity to find this gem, head over this week, tell Ruth I said hi. They are open Thursday – Saturday 8am to 4pm and Sunday 8am to 1pm but they will close up early if they sell out. You can also find them on Facebook – I find their posts enjoyable but warn you, they may make you hungry.