Breaking Bread

The Orlando Baking Company has been baking bread in Cleveland since 1904.

Orlando Baking Company brings old world classics to market

By Terry Troy

Members of the Orlando family sometimes speculate why Nicola Orlando in 1904 moved the family’s baking business away from its roots in Castel di Sangro, Italy, to its current home in Cleveland.

“Maybe it was because of the weather,” quips John Anthony Orlando, current president and CEO, who represents the fifth generation of family ownership of the company. “It actually made sense to come to Cleveland. When you think about it, Cleveland back then was one of the largest cities in America.”

Rivaling the likes of Chicago or St. Louis, which that same year was hosting the World’s Fair.

Regardless of whether or not you believe Orlando’s weather joke, the Orlando Baking Company found a home in Cleveland and for the last 117 years has been bringing Old World ways of baking fine European classics and bread to Northeast Ohio. Indeed, the company’s roots go even further back, having been founded in Italy in 1872.

With nine production lines and six hearth tunnel ovens, Orlando produces well over 250 different styles of fresh and frozen hearth-baked breads rolls and specialty items—in Italian, French, rye and wheat bread varieties. It also produces an extensive variety of subs, hoagies, Kaisers, hamburger buns and dinner rolls. Its signature Ciabatta bread is a staple of menus in restaurants across America.

“We produce over 1 million pounds of product a week,” says Orlando, who literally grew up in the bakery, helping out his father, Sonny, and his many cousins who worked at the plant.

Even with that kind of volume, nothing is sacrificed in quality, Orlando says.

“Where a typical white bread bakery might produce 10,000 loaves an hour, we are usually shooting for 2,500 to 3,000 loaves,” he says. “That’s because our process is different. It imparts a lot more quality to the finished product.”

From left: Chris Orlando, Nick Orlando, Sonny Orlando, Danny Holan (upfront), John C. Orlando, John C. Orlando Jr. and John Anthony Orlando

Today, the Orlando name can be found on shelves of finer grocers and food retailers across Northeast Ohio. But the scope of this family bakery is actually nationwide.

“While Northeast Ohio is our biggest market in terms of brand presence in retail stores, we serve restaurants across the country,” Orlando says. “That’s not something you would know, unless you popped your head in the kitchen of a restaurant and saw our name on a package.”

Indeed, the restaurant and frozen markets actually make up the lion’s share of Orlando Baking Company’s business, Orlando admits, with its smallest concentration in the Northwest and a much larger share in the Southeast. However, the restaurant business is very helpful from a product development standpoint.

“If we see something do well on the restaurant side, we’ll try it on the retail side,” Orlando says.

Through its decades of business in Cleveland at its 200,000-square-foot bakery, Orlando is still very much a family business—even though it employs more than 330 people and is currently looking to grow.

“To take a guess, I’d say that we have at least 20 family members and cousins who work here,” says Orlando. “We are only at a production capacity of 55% and we have 45% available to grow.

“Right now, the challenge is staffing,” Orlando adds. “We have a current need for about 40 people, and we could probably add another 50 on top of that.”

Despite of how much it may grow in the future, you can be sure that the Orlando family will take the same pride in baking as Nicola did when he first moved the company to Cleveland from Italy.