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It’s a sad commentary on Trenton’s old-line bakeries that they don’t do a consistently better job than the bakery departments of major grocery chains. I’d say Wegman’s does a much better job than most Trenton bakeries, and even Shop Rite does about as well.
Franca’s is clearly the best of the old-line Italian bakeries, beating Shop Rite, though not (consistently) Wegman’s. However, there are enough quality items, at very attractive prices, to merit inclusion on this website. The original store front on Princeton Avenue appears stuck in a time warp, reminding me of the places I used to visit as a child.
Franca’s does some lovely, crusty peasant breads, a mean sfoliatella (a ridged, chewy, triangular pastry filled with a lemony ricotta filling), and a decent cheese cake. There may be other good items as well; I’ll confess to have sampled only a few.
At the root of the problem is that Trenton bakeries seem to have decided that they need to keep prices low even if it means reducing quality. A pastry in most Trenton bakeries is $1-$1.50, less than half of what you’ll pay at Panera Bread or Witherspoon Baking Company in Princeton. Certainly, the main-stream demographic of Trenton doesn’t support many up-scale businesses. On the other hand, it’s a death spiral. Why go out of your way to buy from a bakery at all, if the quality is no better than Shop Rite’s?
Franca’s hasn’t been totally immune to this trend (old timers tell me that their Easter cake is a shadow of it’s former, glorious self), but it has resisted it more than most. For the stuff that remains good, it’s a great deal.