Check out a map of the city’s doughnut makers and you’ll notice that the Financial District is scarily devoid of fried dough. But a new baker has quietly been selling freshly baked doughnuts inside the Ferry Building Marketplace for the past two months.
Lucca, Italy-born Massimo Giusti is the owner of Mr. Bomboloni, which sells over one thousand Italian-style yeasted doughnuts every week. Made according to a traditional recipe involving a yeasted batter and “no chemicals or preservatives” the three-bite puffs of dough are alternately filled with Nutella, lemon vanilla cream, or raspberry jam. (Important sidenote: Nancy Silverton is a customer.)
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Giusti sets up outside Village Market every Tuesday and Thursday with two large tables full of miniature bomboloni. “We wanted to create something small and light for weekdays,” he says. There’s almost always a specialty flavor of the week. Today’s, for example, is a mini blueberry bombolone filled with fresh blueberry jam and topped with blueberry glaze — all made with fresh berries from one of the nearby stalls. You can buy just one doughnut for $2.50 or get all three in a paper cone for $7. A larger version of the doughnuts is available on Saturdays and Sundays.
“It’s like the American dream,” says Giusti of his path to the Ferry Building. Giusti won the green card lottery in 2007 and became a citizen a few years later. He learned English at Converse International School on Market Street and worked as a barista, server, and dishwasher at Baonecci until he “started dreaming about the doughnuts from his hometown.” Giusti then went back to Lucca, found the vendor who sold doughnuts outside of his school when he was a teenager, and implored him to teach him the trade. After a week of lessons, Giusti returned to America to share his adaptation of the original doughnuts with San Francisco and “hopefully one day start a business.”
In 2011, bolstered by the encouragement of his friends, Giusti started to get serious. “It’s really easy here compared to our country,” says Giusti of the process of getting his business license, a lender, and a health permit. “It only took about a month.” Giusti’s girlfriend, Tracy Skibo, also happens to be a graphic designer. Skibo helped Giusti create the branding for Mr. Bomboloni, featuring a hot air balloon to signify the “light-as-air” doughnuts.
Today Mr. Bomboloni reliably sells through 800 doughnuts every weekend and he usually sells out of his mini creations on Tuesdays and Thursdays by 3 p.m. His wholesale clients — which include North Beach’s Caffe Trieste, Cafe Roma, Illy, and The Italian Homemade Company — have continued to come back for more since 2011. And it doesn’t hurt that the new doughnut cones seem to be made for social media.
When asked about his future plans, Giusti says that he would one day like to have his own brick-and-mortar storefront. “From there I can do other typical things from Lucca,” he explains. “Special crepes with chestnut flour, and other delicious finger foods you can’t experience unless you’re in Tuscany.”