Roma Bakery Deli & Fine Foods in Lansing specializes in everything sweet and everything Italian. From exquisite wedding cakes to mouthwatering homemade bread to pasta to sandwiches to pizza, Roma has it all.
The woman behind Roma is Filomena Castriciano, co-owner along with husband Sostine. Roma has been in business since 1969. The name “Roma” stems from the city of Rome and was chosen because that is where the Pope resides.
“There was nothing Italian around here, not the bread or the sweet stuff,” said Castriciano. She described reactions to their bakery as, “Oh my! Homemade Italian, it’s about time everybody tasted Italian!”
Castriciano moved to the United States from Messina, Italy, when she was 12 years old. Her father worked in the grocery business, and Castriciano always had a passion for both eating and cooking. So, one year after marrying Sostine, who was well trained in baking, the idea for Roma came full circle.
“Lansing wasn’t much for Italian yet,” said Marianne Dion, Castriciano’s sister.
Castriciano comes from a family of five girls, and her sister Dion still aids her in running Roma by handling the bookkeeping.
“We’re a close knit family,” said Dion. “My kids love Aunt Mena’s food.”
Roma functions as both a bakery and store for general cooking products, with an emphasis on Italian eatery. Shelves are stocked with pastas and oils, coolers full with sauces and the counters supplied with an endless array of spices. Dion noted that their business is quite evenly split between the baked goods and deli products and what the store offers.
Roma has a unique collection of sauces, dressings and pastas prepared by the Castricianos and more than 30 kinds of olive oil.
“We try to do really different things,” said Castriciano. “We have a mixture of everything.”
The dining area is small but sufficient; perfectly cozy for a cup of coffee, sandwich or bakery treat. Roma is equipped with a cappuccino machine as well, even though Castriciano noted that she tries to keep things old fashioned for the most part.
The rum cake and cannoli are two of their best selling baked goods, along with their fresh bread.
“The Italian tortes is a big pull for us because you don’t get it anywhere else,” said Dion. “The chocolate-covered strawberries are popular in February.”
One end of the business that has tapered off is the catering. When Castriciano was in perfect health, they did a lot of catering. But since her stroke in 2007, Roma supplies foods such as lasagna trays, pasta trays and wedding cakes, but they no longer cater.
“We also make big six-foot subs,” said Dion.
In terms of the business as a whole, Dion noted that business has been down a bit, and the construction on Cedar Street has not improved matters. Their busiest days of the week are Wednesday through Saturday, with the rush between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“There are still the regulars and our long-time customers that still come back,” said Dion. “I think [Castriciano’s] personality makes this place, people love coming in — it’s her forte.”
Castriciano admitted to always socializing with her customers.
“I love my customers. I hug everybody,” said Castriciano.