Former educator to realize longtime dream when he opens Masterpiece Bread bakery in Geneva
Mike Scorzo of Geneva has spent the past few weeks getting his dough in order -- and it has nothing to do with his finances.
He's literally kneading and baking what he calls "temperamental freshly ground flour" with a couple of bakers to get things just right for artisan bread when he soon opens his Masterpiece Bread bakery at 1441 S. Randall Road in Geneva.
Though an exact opening date wasn't set as of earlier this week, as Scorzo awaits the shipment of a glass display case and then passing the city's health inspection. He is confident the bread shop will be in business before or when a ribbon-cutting event occurs at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 17.
It will mark the fulfillment of a 30-plus-years dream for Scorzo to open a bread shop. It was in the back of his mind during a long career in education that started after he graduated from college in 1989 and ended with his early retirement when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year.
"When I was just starting to teach, I had already been working in the foodservice through high school and college and even managed a Wendy's restaurant for a time," Scorzo said.
When the Great Harvest Bread bakeries began operations in Illinois, Scorzo really got the bug to get into the fresh bread business. "But I was already in education and had good-paying jobs," he noted.
After teaching in DeKalb, being an assistant principal in Naperville and an assistant superintendent in Cary, Scorzo finished his education career as a teaching consultant for the International Center for Leadership and Education, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
COVID-19 hit during his national consultant gig, effectively shutting down schools and travel, thus the early retirement.
"My wife asked what I was going to do, and I had this dream of a bread bakery on the back burner for so long," Scorzo said. "So I told myself I was going to do it, and here we are."
Masterpiece Bread will showcase all types of bread but will also have an array of cookies. He won't be able to sell beverages, but he's not worried about that, as the shop is next to a Starbucks.
"People can get their coffee at Starbucks, but we'll have the cinnamon rolls and the double chocolate bun and many other items," he said.
Scorzo and his wife Sarah and two young children (he has two older kids in their 20s from a previous marriage) live in the Randall Square subdivision area, making his commute to work just a few minutes if he gets a red light on Randall Road.
"We signed the lease for that spot (for the bakery) last November, but it's been close to two years now of the family planning for this and getting funding in place and getting all of the equipment needed to get the work done," Scorzo said.
He is hoping customers will find out quickly what he has seen taking place at the shop already the past few weeks during preparation -- that his bakers are mastering their craft.
"One of my bakers has a culinary degree and has done pastry breads, and the other is an art major, which we will incorporate into Masterpiece Bread, but she has done home baking," he said. "They are both really good."
Restaurant hitting its stride
Last week, folks in Batavia engaging in social media chats appeared to be finding out about a restaurant mentioned several months ago in this column when WindMill Grille & Pizzeria was just about to open in the former Aliano's location at 90 N. Island Ave.
Mayor Jeff Schielke had told me to keep an eye on this restaurant, as he was confident it would do well in Batavia.
From the reviews people provide, it sounds like it is hitting the spot with an array of dishes from pizza to spaghetti and meatballs and fish and chips. And, likely, most other dishes in between.
Now, Batavia just needs to fill the former Pal Joey's spot on River Street and the former Gaetano's spot at 15 E. Wilson St.
It would put a ton of restaurants in a nice cluster from Island Avenue across the footbridge to River Street, giving residents plenty of options for dining.
A new ticket option
The wine and food that make Geneva's Festival of Vine so enjoyable every year don't need any more promotion other than saying we've enjoyed it for decades.
But you can avoid ticket lines by purchasing them in advance at genevachamber.com this year.
It may not cut down on actual lines to get food or wine with those tickets, but it will still be a time-saver by not standing in ticket lines. There are some guidelines and procedures for buying online, so check out the website.
As the Geneva Chamber of Commerce prepares to host this autumn event Friday, Sept. 10 through Sunday, Sept. 12, we have our fingers crossed for good weather and that most in attendance will be vaccinated.
The chamber is prepared to require masks at the event if the coronavirus numbers keep surging in the region.
That seems at least somewhat likely, but I'm guessing I'd be inclined to wear a mask anyway when making my rounds at the Flavor Fare tent. For those new to this event, the Flavor Fare is the granddaddy of food spreads at community festivals -- at least in terms of having a bunch of different restaurants selling their specialties.
Festival of the Vine has been part of Geneva's festival landscape for more than 40 years now.
It's on with the masks
It's discouraging when we continue to battle each other over whether to require masks in certain settings, particularly in schools. It's a debate my mind can't grasp, and I suppose I have to be thankful this simple requirement didn't unfold when I was a kid or when our son was in school. I wouldn't be interested in debating against medical recommendations and watching the number of ill people continue to rise.
The pros and cons of students wearing masks in schools had to be discussed so both sides could understand the other. But our governor has generally put health first. So, for now, the kids have to wear masks for their safety and their teachers.
At some point, we have to continue the effort to lessen the blow of the virus, not only in how it has devastated some families but also in what it has done to our health care workers, small businesses, schools and general way of life.
Masks are surely uncomfortable for some kids. However, some teachers tell me younger kids can just as easily view masks as kind of "fun," regarding what type they should wear on a particular day and what their friends might have.
I recently wore a mask for about a 15-hour stint of three connecting flights and four airports. It was not fun, but not a significant sacrifice either.
Regardless of how one views Gov. Pritzker's mandate for masks in schools, the alternative is what we're stagnating in now with the delta variant -- and the realization that the virus is not going to go away and can only get worse if we let it.
It would, in fact, potentially get stronger and morph into another dangerous threat while we sit in meetings or rant on social media against the simple tasks of slipping on a mask or getting a vaccine.