Ever since Liberato and Guiseppina Dell’Amura opened their small Wooster Street bakery in New Haven’s Little Italy in 1922, the business has stayed in the family. Son and daughter Fortunato and Mae—followed by granddaughters Jo-Ann, Dolores, Marie, and Leona and great grandson Salvatore—have all taken on the family tradition of baking cookies, biscotti, and traditional Italian pastries daily.
In-store cases and trays are filled with traditional pastries such as cannoli, bigne donuts, and éclairs. The team can also wrap, box, and ship assortments of 24 types of Italian cookies and nine flavors of biscotti, as well as treats such as chocolate-dipped caramel apples, pretzels, and marshmallow pops. The team also hand-decorates sugar cookies in shapes such as shirts, shoes, and crowns in case an emperor is celebrating the first time he wore clothes.
Book Trader Café stacks more than 16,000 titles of gently used books on its shelves, combined with second-hand DVDs and CDs that transform the inventory into multimedia brain food. Literary works and academic books on art, architecture, and paper towels line the store, their spines inviting readers to sink into their vivid and educational worlds. A cult-fiction section assembles an apocrypha of fringe scribes, photography books tempt eyes with their luscious pages, and a children's-book section tempts kids to burrow into a fort of words. Most titles average $4.95, and staff carefully curates each one to ensure a quality recycled collection sans fraying bindings or torn pages. While Book Trader Café's inventory rotates frequently, the online store lists troves of its selections and lets bibliophiles reserve books by phone. With new old books in hand, patrons can stroll over to the café to enjoy them and further sate their appetites for letters by reading the menu.
Rita’s Italian Ice has won over many customers with its gelati, a top-selling treat that sandwiches a layer of italian ice between two layers of frozen custard. Infused with fresh fruit, the shop’s ices evoke Italian desserts much more pleasantly than pasta drizzled in hot fudge, and silky frozen custards and cream slide effortlessly down throats. Blendinis commingle frozen custard with chunky mix-ins for a hearty summer snack, and Mistos combine italian ice and custard in drink form. The shop not only supports cooling patrons down during heat waves but also supports other causes, such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, for which it hosts frequent fundraisers.
Jamba Juice blenders whirl together fresh fruit for healthy smoothies liberated from artificial flavors, preservatives, and high-fructose corn syrup. From the classic menu, the Aloha Pineapple thickens straws with pineapple sherbet and bananas or, with a different inflection, bananas and pineapple sherbet. All Fruit smoothies invite just 250 calories of Peach Perfection or Pomegranate Paradise into a fruit-exclusive clubhouse, while Pre-Boosted creations introduce natural supplements. The immune-boosting Açai Super-Antioxidant. Light smoothies bear fewer than one-third of the calories and half of the sugar of a Jamba classic, so mango-, orange-, and peach-infused sips of Mango Mantra cause less guilt than forgetting your mailman's birthday.
Tapping into the storied tradition of Lebanese baking, Zen Bakeries lets customers sample the fruits of a wood-fired brick oven in the form of artisanal flatbread and pita treats. Patrons can choose from either white or whole wheat for nearly all of the baked morsels. The shop's kitchen wizards mix and knead both varieties daily, ensuring that outdated dough such as yesterday's pita and two-dollar bills have no place in this world. Early risers can stop by for a freshly baked egg-and-cheese pita pie ($3.50) or side with sweet in its epic battle against savory by ordering an eye-opening Nutella-and-banana pita pie ($1.50–$3.50).
At HSC, the bread-hugged, gourmet menu items earned the 2010 Best Sandwich vote from the Fairfield County Weekly —a victory achieved through a blend of fresh ingredients and fill-up portions. Positioned front and center on the café menu, the aged Vermont cheddar cheeseburger scores savory points by featuring all-natural patties made from unfussed-with beef. The rest of the menu reads like a musical playlist for diverse tastes. The China Girl jazzes up a chicken wrap with Asian elements such as the ginger-pineapple glaze ($7.95), and the Magnificent Seven tops tomato and mozzarella with pesto and red peppers ($8.50). The smear of Cajun mayo adds spice to the turkey- and ham-stuffed Fire on the Bayou, which is served warm ($7.95). The rest of the options include salads, breakfast food, and an extensive specialty café drink menu packed with sips that sound more like desserts; the Snickers or candy-cane lattes should satisfy a snappy sweet tooth.