Little did Matt Reinecke know when he met Cristina in Trafalgar Square in London while sitting under Nelson’s Column, that he would one day live in Italy. After they met, they spent only two days together in London before Matt returned to California and Cristina went home to Prato, a city a 25 kilometers north of Florence. Two years later, Matt visited Cristina and her family for two months. The following year, he moved into a small apartment in Costa dei Magnoli, where he enjoyed stunning views of Florence; six months later, he moved to Prato where he felt the way of life fit him better.
The next year, Matt returned to the United States to complete his studies, graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a double major in sociology and economics. Cristina then joined him in San Francisco, and for six years, he worked as an investment banker, moving up the ranks.
They returned to Italy, and for about 11 years, he worked in mutual funds for a few international banks in Milan, and then for a family business in Turin. But when the world of investment banking shifted and outsourcing became a popular choice for firms, Matt left the industry. While spending more time with his wife Cristina and their two children, he came up with a business idea that would allow the couple to work together.
With his investment mind hard at work, he had been thinking about a business that would allow him to capitalize on the large student and expat communities in Florence. Although he enjoyed living in Italy, he had been missing a few of his favorite American foods, like bagels. He not only taught himself how to make them, but he also attended a bagel school in the United States to refine his bagel-making skills. After learning that Starbucks was not planning to branch out in Italy, he thought it would be a good opportunity to create something similar in Florence-and share his love of bagels with others.
With this plan in mind, Matt then took a bread-making course at CAST Alimenti (www.castalimenti.it) in Brescia to learn how to make his now-famous baguettes. Matt admits that even his bagels have benefited from the course.
In October 2008, Matt and Cristina opened Mama’s Bakery (www.mamasbakery.it) on via della Chiesa, near Santo Spirito. From Monday to Saturday, he arrives early in the morning to make his delicious bagels, breads, English muffins, cookies, brownies, pies, cakes and cupcakes.
Initially their clientele was largely American, but increasingly, Italians come in to enjoy lunch and the American treats. Another growing group of clients is young schoolchildren, who bring their parents to Mama’s Bakery to give them a taste of American-style baked goods.
Matt does not expect to rest on his success in Florence; he plans to open at least one more Mama’s Bakery in another major Italian city, perhaps Rome or Milan.