Vincent Termini Jr. was panicking. As the Christmas season, the busiest time of year for his family’s famous South Philadelphia bakery, began, a large piece of equipment from their main bakery had seized. It just stopped.
It was not just any machine. The “dough breaker” is an 80 year old specialized piece of equipment straight from Italy that is an essential part of the cannoli making process, by far the most popular item at Termini Bros. during the holidays. This key step in the process saw cannoli production halt on the Monday following Thanksgiving, just weeks before Christmas Eve, when the bakery prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in Philadelphia.
âOh my God,â Termini said on Sunday, breathlessly remembering the bakery’s rapidly dwindling supply of cannoli shells. “I was beyond panic.”
As tradition has it, generations of South Philadelphians begin lining up just after midnight on December 24 and listening to live music, waiting for the moment when Vincent Termini Sr., now 83, opens the doors. doors at 6 a.m. and welcomes customers inside to buy biscotti. and boxes of Italian cookies.
Mostly, they come for the cannoli.
After the machine froze, young Termini and his brother spent every day trying to find a way to fix or replace it in time for its busiest few weeks of the year. A mechanic evaluated the machine and found that a pin that held his shaft in place had broken and the shaft had split. A replacement part would probably take months to arrive.
The owner of Tallutos, a pasta shop in the Italian market, donated one of his own equipment that rolls dough into sheets, but Termini said the machine was too small and not quite suitable for making cannoli.
Meanwhile, the goodies were still flying off the shelves and the bakery was shipping them across the country. Termini said they were selling thousands of cannoli over an average weekend in December, and by the last week they had fallen to less than 1,000 shells. They needed a miracle.
Termini said it called Sander Supply, a Philadelphia-based industrial equipment supplier that Termini has worked with for decades. They couldn’t fix it themselves – so Sander’s owners scoured town to other machine shops, trying to find someone who could.
Two different workshops worked on the problem until last week, and on Friday morning Termini got the call: thanks to Port Richmond Tool and Die – who had a special part in hand and found a way to get the machine back on track. in working order – the dough breaker was working again.
âIt really is like a miracle,â Termini said. âI don’t know what we would have done, to be honest. I can’t imagine telling people, “We don’t have cannoli”.
During the first weeks of the debacle, they did not. Vincent Termini Jr. and his brother Joseph chose to keep the issue close to the waistcoat – they didn’t even tell their father because “he would have panicked.” They let him know when it was all over that Christmas had been saved.
And so Vincent Termini Sr., who has not returned to the bakery since the start of the pandemic, will return for the first time in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Eve.
It will open the doors, revealing to the dozens of people waiting in the cold, that inside is a warm, decorated bakery filled with cookies, cakes and, most importantly, cannoli.