Imagine this: The delicious aroma of Italian baked goods—fresh oven-baked Italian bread, cookies and cannoli—wafting backward through time and doing a pirouette into some happy person’s nostrils, circa 1957. That’s when John V. Mainella, who grew up near Naples, Italy, first opened Bella Napoli on River Street in Troy. Early recipes also included pizza dough and submarine rolls, which Mainella’s wife, Phyllis, helped bake and sell out of the family shop. A year after opening, John’s brother, Michael, joined the ranks of the family business, too.
Bella Napoli’s legend—and influence—only grew from there. In ’82, John’s eldest son, Dominic, opened a second, 4,000-square-foot Bella Napoli location on New Loudon Road in Latham, which not only featured the original’s classic Italian baked goods, but also a café, soon to be known for its delicious sandwiches, sweets and coffee.
Speaking of the non-savory stuff, nowadays, customers come from far and wide to enjoy Bella Napoli’s specialties such as its Sfogliatelle, a flaky pastry filled with sweet ricotta cheese and diced orange peel; signature cannoli, available in flavors like raspberry and cappuccino; and Baba, an Italian sponge cake soaked in rum, which comes plain or filled with creamy Italian vanilla custard. (Customers also snap up the bakery’s take on stateside staples such as doughnuts, muffins and Danish, too.)
Whether you catch the Mainellas doing their thing at the OG Troy spot or the 39-years-young Latham outpost, you can be sure that you’ll leave a satisfied—and by that, we mean full—customer.