Before opening their restaurant, the owners of Sapori Italian Bakery & Café participated in the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s (UHCC) Business Academy, offered in partnership with the Ogden-Weber Technical College and the Ogden Business Information Center (BIC). The 10-week Business Academy course helps prepare and instruct small business owners in areas most crucial for success: vision and planning, business development, marketing and communication, human resources, financial literacy, management, and customer service. The owners also received a loan through the BIC’s Microenterprise Loan Program (MLP). For more information on the Business Academy or the MLP, contact the BIC by phone at (801)629-8613 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luca and Azzurra La Mantia had always dreamed about having a place like Sapori Italian Bakery & Cafe. They spent most of their lives in Italy, developing restaurant experience in cities like Sicily, Tuscany, and Venice. As Luca and Azzurra felt the necessity to start pursuing their dream and do something they truly enjoyed, the La Mantias had the opportunity to visit some of Azzurra’s family who had moved to Utah more than 30 years ago.
When they decided to move to the U.S., the La Mantias’ daughter was only a year old. According to Luca, it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was one they felt they needed to make.
“Sicily is where we were born,” Luca said. “It was our home, but it’s not the best place for people like us to give a brighter future to our daughter.”
Luca and Azzurra wanted to have something reminiscent of an indoor Italian piazza – somewhere people could sit down and just be together. The La Mantias started going through the process of permanent relocation and opened a catering company in Utah in 2018 with the eventual goal of having a brick-and-mortar location.
“The first time we visited Ogden, we fell in love with this place,” Luca said. “There’s something really special with this place. It reminded us a bit of Europe; whether it’s the historical buildings or just something in the air, we thought, ‘this could be our spot.’”
Living in the U.S. took some getting used to but not for the reasons one might expect. The overall friendliness in Ogden took the La Mantias by surprise.
“I remember the first time someone asked me ‘How are you?’ when I was in line at the store,” Luca said. “I didn’t know what people would usually say in this situation with people in line behind me. In Italy, you don’t usually have a conversation at the end of a transaction. There’s usually a ‘thank you’ or ‘arrivederci,’ but not much else.”
Luca said business has been more successful than he and Azzurra could have hoped. Customers are responding positively and spreading the word; some have said they’ve received recommendations from as far as Texas.
“People come in and say, ‘I’ve been to Italy and I really missed pastries like this,” Azzurra said. “It’s because we aren’t making Italian-style pastries; we’re making Italian pastries. These are recipes we grew up with in Italy – the tiramisu was our family Sunday treat.”
Whether it’s customers saying Sapori’s was the best cannoli, pesto pasta, or lasagna they’ve ever tried, or those who ultimately decide not to taste or buy a pastry, the La Mantias are continually humbled by the gratitude and warmth of the Ogden community.
Luca and Azzurra said they both feel like they found their “forever home.”
“Sometimes, it’s like when you decide to go bungee jumping; you just have to close your eyes, and that’s it – you’re already there, bouncing. It’s too late to go back,” Luca said. “But when we look at the results, we’re totally happy, and we found a nice place to raise our family. We’re pretty sure we’re going to spend the rest of our lives here.”
Sapori’s Authentic Italian Culinary Advice
Luca: Don’t use marinara or garlic in your spaghetti; garlic is used primarily in fish dishes. For a simple, delicious spaghetti sauce, use a soffritto (a mix of finely-diced celery, carrots, and yellow onions). Fry the vegetables in extra virgin olive oil until golden brown, then add pure tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes. Cook for about 20 minutes at a low temperature, and add a few leaves of fresh basil toward the end. Sprinkle with parmigiano reggiano and enjoy.
Azzurra: If you want to make your spaghetti dish more Sicilian, dice and fry an eggplant, and add the cubes to your spaghetti. When it comes to lasagna, no ricotta, no garlic. Pasta, house-made meat sauce, parmesan (don’t let anyone tell you it’s too much), and a delicious béchamel sauce in every layer.