April 23, 2024

Learning How to Make a Twist Bread at Pittsburgh’s Mancini’s Bakery

Mancini’s Bakery and Mancini’s Bread is probably one of the best known local Pittsburgh brands. It was probably one of the first breads I ate when I moved to Pittsburgh. Typically if I’m looking for a good Italian bread to use for sandwiches, French Toast, garlic bread and recently stuffing, I pick up a loaf of Mancini’s bread. So, I was pretty excited when YaJagoff Podcast invited me to participate in a tour of Mancini’s Bakery in McKees Rocks.

All Mancini’s bread is baked at their location in McKees Rocks. They started baking in 1926 and started at the bakery there back in the 1940s. The bakery space has slowly expanded over the years to handle the amount of bread they bake and distribute daily. The storefront still has evidence of the old brick oven, which was removed to make more retail space. One of the old bread peels hangs over the counter of the storefront. They sell all different types of bread out of the storefront as well as some frozen items, bread dough, ingredients, sauces and seasonings.

We continued our tour into another room that used to be the main bakery, but is now mostly used for demos and special orders. As the need to produce more bread every day increased and buildings near the bakery became for sale, the Mancini family would buy the building and expand the bakery. Sometimes they could keep the structure of the original building intact and other times have to completely gut the old building. They would then connect the buildings to make them into one facility.

We spent some time in the demo space learning from Nick Mancini, one of the main operators of the bakery, how to properly mold the bread dough into their famous Twist Italian bread. It starts with a normal ball of dough. Then we learned to stretch it, roll it out and the proper steps to fold and tuck the long snake of dough into the twist bread. There were steps to flatten, fold, twist into a P, flip over and tuck so it looks like a continuous loop in the end. I watched several be made. It was my turn to twist one and it’s not as easy as it looks. I made a second and it looked a lot better but still takes a lot of practice to make them fast and make them look good. The positive part is even if they don’t look too good, they will still taste great. The ones Mancini’s make every day look good and taste great.

While we waited for our Twist breads to bake, we did a short tour of the main bakery.  We all had to put on our hair nets and were instructed not to touch anything unless allowed. I couldn’t take any photos of the bakery so we wouldn’t accidentally share any trade secrets. Now they have a giant baking facility with plenty of mixers, proofing boxes, ovens and other production tools. It was so cool to see rows of massive ovens and proofing boxes. There were large vats of flour and giant mixers combining ingredients. It was pretty cool. At the end of the tour, we saw their latest creation which was a giant bread turkey for Thanksgiving.

It was finally time to eat and enjoy some of the great Mancini’s bread. At this time, we met now-local artist Fabrizio Gerbino, who immigrated from Italy to Pittsburgh years ago. He works out of a space in McKees Rocks and designed the Bread by Mancini’s sign you will see hanging in stores and restaurants. They made us up some pepperoni rolls and some pizza bread. It was a delicious way to end our tour. We also got to take home our breads we twisted. I ate a lot of bread over the next week and enjoyed all of it.

Mancini’s Bakery is located at 601 Woodward Avenue, McKees Rocks, PA 15136. They have a retail location in the Strip District. Their breads can now be found all over the region in grocery stores and restaurants. They do not have plans to expand beyond the Pittsburgh region to maintain the quality and freshness of their bread.