Book Excerpt

Set up: Elizabeth, an LA physician, has arrived back home to Little Italy for the month of December.  Her sisters, Gina and Nicki with a little help from their neighbors have a plan to make her permanently stay. They live above Messina Bakery, and who can resist the sweet scent of pastry?

From Chapter Eight

Every one of her senses became engaged the moment she crossed the threshold of the bakery. A lively Louis Prima Christmas swing song played overhead, which seemed to cause the baker’s assistant to move in swift rhythm as she filled orders, boxing cookies and dolcini. Familiar faces, neighbors, and old friends, chatted patiently while waiting for their number to be called.
Against the wall, to Elizabeth’s right, towered a four-shelf metal display lined with Panettone and boxed Perugina chocolate. A table of cellophane wrapped gift sets and cookie trays looked as though it was about to topple over onto the crush of patrons. The aroma within the bakery was intoxicating—sweet icing and fresh bread. Her father once referred to this delicious scent as the perfection of the holy trinity – flour, butter, and sugar. He’d always had such a sweet tooth for Italian cheesecake, and this Little Italy was known to have the best.
Behind the counter, above the shelves of cakes and pies, one particular item caught her eye: the image of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the patron saint of bakers, holding a basket of bread, offering a smiling welcome to pastry heaven. Beside the saintly image hung a 1962 ceramic plate depicting Pope John XXIII and President Kennedy, side by side blessing the elderly patrons with a Pace Nel Mondo. Elizabeth grinned remembering how her grandfather Vincenzo Clemente revered President Kennedy. Italians probably loved him more than the Irish. Hell, they probably loved him more than the Pope.
It seemed as though all heads had turned upon her entrance. She heard hushed whispers and a few gasps. The door’s jingle bell followed by a momentary hush caused the diminutive Mr. Primo to exit the back room, coming around the display cases. His white baker’s apron was layered with flour and streaked with red jam, most likely from the inside of the cookies and crostata pie. He wore a white hairnet, a beaming smile and, strangely, a colorful woolen scarf wrapped about his neck. She determined that his being “hit by the air” caused some sort of neck ailment or paranoia. He didn’t look anywhere near as frazzled as Gina’s neighbors conveyed, and she wondered if the whole thing had been a set up from that very first pinch. She considered her sister’s new Machiavellian streak and thought … hmm with a twist to her lips.
As Primo approached, Josie grabbed her shoulders turning her to face Mrs. Genovese, who unbuttoned her coat, then slid it from her shoulders. Josie placed it over the luggage and quickly rolled it to a corner summarily shutting out any expected argument.
Bene. Welcome, Lizzy, welcome!” he greeted, hugging her tightly followed by a kiss to both of her cheeks. “You’re going to work with Rosa behind the counter.”
“Hi Mr. Primo. I’m happy to help but I’m afraid I don’t know anything about a bakery. Well, apart from satisfying my terrible sweet tooth.”
 She snorted a laugh, and he replied without batting an eye. “Then you know cannoli, cookies, pignoli, cream puffs, cheese-a-cake, and pizzelle. You put em’ in a box and take the money. Badda bing, badda boom!” He dropped the apron strings over her neck and Josie tied the back one around her waist. His happy smile warmed Elizabeth’s cool, apprehensive demeanor and she thought for a second that this might not be so bad after all. She did want to help; already he felt like family.
Both ladies turned with a wave and a dismissive Ciao bella before departing. Elizabeth thought she heard one of them say something about a wolf’s mouth in Italian and the other laughed raucously at the wish for luck. Yeah, she’d been played and instinctively knew who had orchestrated the game.
She rested her hand on the baker’s surprisingly firm bicep. “Mr. Primo, are you feeling well? Do you have a fever or feel weak? Does your back hurt?”
“Such an angelo to be worried.” He pinched her cheek. “I’m fine, just baking in the kitchen, and-a my son did not show up for work. Besides, Gina tells me that you would like to move back to the neighborhood. This is your homecoming!” He deviously winked at her and took her hand, leading her behind the counter where an introduction to the standoffish Rosa took place. The ancient woman continued to work, halting in her path for a split second to push a white hairnet down upon her apprentice’s chestnut locks.
Elizabeth felt all eyes upon her as Primo walked her through the process of filling orders. She tried not to focus on the fact that she remembered many of the spectators awaiting service. Feeling nervous, she pulled the cord to the ticket dispenser and announced, “Thirty-six. Who is next? Thirty-six?”


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