Maria’s Pastry Shop, the Italian bakery that is home to some of the city’s finest cannoli, will close its doors for good on September 15, 2019. Owner Maria Merola has been working inside the North End space at 46 Cross St. since 1970, when it was still under the ownership of Modern Pastry.
Merola bought the business from Modern in 1982, and she has operated it independently ever since. And after working for five decades — and owning her own shop for 37 years — she’s ready to hang up her apron.
“I’ve been working for 50 years,” she told Eater. “I’m done.”
Merola’s pastries — and especially her cannoli — have become a staple of the North End. (Indeed, Boston Magazine has awarded the shop the best cannoli in Boston title on multiple occasions.) Tourists crowd each other’s space at Mike’s Pastry and Modern, but locals know to go to Maria’s.
Maria’s has been good to the North End, and the North End has also been good to Merola. She’s lived in the same building on Fleet Street since she moved to Boston in 1968.
“My mother didn’t like much change,” she told Eater.
Change in the North End was inevitable, however. Though the leveling and subsequent burying of the raised Green Line tracks, the burying of the central artery of I-93 underground, and the construction of the Ted Williams tunnel and the Rose Kennedy Greenway eventually proved a boon for the city, the simultaneous infrastructure projects known as the Big Dig caused chaos in the North End. So much so that Merola was forced to lay off some of her workforce and reinvent her business.
“I had no sidewalk for five years,” she recalled.
Unable to rely on foot traffic, Merola began a delivery service and a mail-order service. She worked tirelessly, from 6 a.m. till 7 p.m., seven days a week. In fact, she still does. And she’ll continue to do so until September 15, anyway.
“Enough is enough,” she said, laughing. “To tell you the truth, I made the decision just two months ago. My best friend retired at the end of June. My other friend retired at 62 years old. They’re going to Florida, they’re going here, they’re going there. I’m the oldest one out of all of my friends, and I thought, ‘Something is wrong with this picture. What am I doing over here?’ It was time.”
Merola said business is still very good and that she knows she’ll miss it all once reality sets in.
“I love it, and I’m going to miss it, no question.”
Merola plans to stay in the North End in retirement — but a trip to the south of Naples, to the farm on which she grew up, is imminent.
“My youngest brother is there, watching the farm,” she told Eater. “So I’m going to go home for a bit.”