CARROLL GARDENS — A common family name in Italy has found local fame in Carroll Gardens, where two Court Street businesses share the name as well as a love of bread and cheese.
Customers often assume Caputo's Bake Shop and Caputo's Fine Foods, the last of a few surviving Italian shops in the neighborhood, are owned by the same family, but the two businesses and households are not related, the owners said.
Caputo's Bake Shop manager James Caputo, 42, said people often call his shop and ask for the other Caputo’s, which is famous for its fresh-made mozzarella.
Caputo’s great-grandfather opened the bakery in 1904 after moving to Brooklyn from Sicily. The shop was moved to 329 Court St. years later, where it makes dozens of varieties of bread, as well as cookies and pastries.
Just six blocks away is Caputo’s Fine Foods at 460 Court St., which offers tubs of olives, fresh and dried pastas, oils, sauces and an array of meats and cheeses, including the famous mozzarella made daily.
Giuseppe Caputo opened the shop in 1973, just one year after he moved to the country from Mola di Bari, Italy, according to his son, Frank Caputo, 51, who has managed the shop for the past 15 years.
The younger Caputo makes Fine Foods’ 700-to-800-pound supply of mozzarella each week using a recipe he learned from his father, who died last month, he said.
The two businesses have another connection — Frank Caputo’s father worked in the bakery for a few months before he opened the fine foods shop, both Caputos said.
Both James and Frank Caputo came into their respective family businesses after they ventured into the world of finance and banking, but eventually realized their passion lay with food.
“My heart was always here. Always, always here,” said bakery owner Caputo, who worked as an equity trader for more than a decade.
Frank Caputo joined the business after turning down a job at Chase Bank.
“It is stressful,” he said of running the Italian fine foods shop.
Carroll Gardens was once a predominantly Italian neighborhood but that population has shrunk in the decades the Caputos have been in business.
“The bakeries that didn’t change to the neighborhood just didn’t survive,” said James Caputo. “As the neighborhood changed, we had to adapt."
Caputo’s Bake Shop made about 12 varieties of bread when it opened but now bakes more than 100 kinds, including organic and non-genetically modified varieties.
Between the two Caputo families, there are five sons ranging from toddlers to college students. But neither Frank nor James is sure any of their children will carry on the family legacy.
“Running a business like this is a huge responsibility,” said James Caputo, who was grateful his parents allowed him to pursue his own path before taking over the family business.
“At the end of the day, I take such pride in it,” he said.