Provincetown Portuguese Bakery
Readers of Building Provincetown have been known to wonder what could possibly fuel me for seemingly nonstop work when I’m in town. O.K. Here’s my confession: malasadas from the Portuguese Bakery (and foot-longs from John’s). Even visitors who were scarcely aware of Provincetown’s Portuguese heritage when they arrived can’t pull themselves away from the pastry cases of this modest but venerable town institution. And natives have even fonder memories. “The smells from that bakery were irresistible,” Mary-Jo Avellar recalled, saving special praise for the Viana bread, which she was dispatched to buy once or twice a week as a girl. “I used to have a hard time bringing it home without having eaten a sizable chunk.” (Mary-Jo Avellar, “Provincetown Portuguese Bakery,” Share the Heritage, 2008.) She was speaking of the time when the bakery was under the direction of its founder, Antonio Brito, who was born in — and retired to — the town of Britelo, in northern Portugal.
There was and is a connection between the bakery and the Janoplis family of the Mayflower Café, which owns 299 Commercial Street. Sam Janoplis, son of the Mayflower’s founder, married Maria Brito, Antonio’s daughter. Their son is Michael Janoplis.
Brito opened the bakery in 1932, Avellar recounts. He was renowned enough in his day to inspire a short song by Pete Seeger, who performed it in Town Hall in August 1967, accompanied by the Linguiça Band. “If we love the bread made by a man,” Seeger explained, “we should also treasure the man, and let him know how valuable he is to Provincetown.” Four years later, after four decades running the bakery, Brito retired in 1971.
“When Mr. Brito decided to close his business and move back to Portugal, everyone was devastated, thinking that they would have to go to Portugal to buy a decent load of bread,” Avellar wrote in Provincetown Portuguese Cookbook (1997). For a brief time, Sam and Maria Brito Janoplis operated the bakery, introducing deli-style sandwiches. Ernie Carreiro also ran it for a year.
In 1976, it was taken over by Antonio “Tony” Ferreira and his wife, Guilhermina “Mina” Nazare Texeira (Guerra) Ferreira (±1936-2001). The Ferreiras introduced malasadas and rabanadas, soups and linguiça rolls. During their proprietorship, Jose Ferreira (no relation) began working at the bakery.
They were succeeded by another family: Jose Ferreira and his wife, Arnaldina; their daughter Ofelia Ferreira Bago, and her husband, Tibor Bago; and her sister, Helena. Ofelia trained as a pastry maker at the Culinary Institute of America. The bakery’s specialties now include pasteis de nata and bolas de berlim. “The tradition of baking excellent Portuguese bread and pastries continues in the same location to this day,” Avellar wrote in 2008.