“The chocolate chips just came out, give em another five minutes!” Marie Guerriera calls from the back baking room to her daughter Julia, who’s working the counter at Regina Bakery in Windsor Terrace. The youngest of the Guerriera girls, Julia is the daughter at work today, but on any given afternoon it might be one of her older sisters, Marisa or Bianca, behind the register. Regina Bakery is solidly a family business.
“I met my husband in this bakery when I was 16,” says Marie, who now owns Regina with her husband Frank Guerriera. Back then, in 1982, Regina Bakery was a larger space, taking up the full corner of Prospect Avenue and Prospect Park West.
“My brother Vinnie bought the bakery in 1970,” says Frank, who says they inherited the name Regina, which means queen. “I came here from Milazzo, Italy to work for him—it’s always been a family place.” Over the years, there have been a few location changes—Long Beach, NJ, Canarsie and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn among them. “Business went up, it went down, but it never fell off,” says Frank, who started his own Regina Bakery in 1994. That one was down on 5th Avenue in Park Slope.
Today, Regina Bakery is back in a slightly smaller version of its original spot, a cozy and warm space. The large window — often foggy this time of year from the oven heat in contrast to the winter weather — is decorated with thank you cards from local kids who love their desserts. The glass display counter is filled with color: classic Italian rainbow cookies, golden cannoli, fluffy éclairs and fresh-baked apple turnovers.
Marie is a self-taught baker, moving from the register in high school to the back ovens as she married Frank and started their family. “I learned as I worked here,” she says. “We do everything ourselves except for the bread, because that’s an all-nighter.”
One regular comes in to order a coffee and shouts, “Rainbow cookies, that’s what their famous for! And their daughters, the three jewels. Rain, shine or snow, they’re here.” Marie says that even though they’ve moved around, now that Regina is back in its original location since 2012, they see familiar faces again. “There’s one lady in her late 80s who comes in to talk to my daughters and she always says, ‘I remember your mother behind the counter at 16!’”
The day starts when Frank and the daughter on duty open the shop, around 7:45am. “We put the oven on and start with muffins, croissants, cheese danish, and black and white cookies, which we make every day,” says Marie. “Then we create a list of what’s sold out and we bake more of those.”
Their number one seller are the cannoli, according to Marie, but the character cookies she created are also big hits — Marie makes everything from Cookie Monsters to green turtles to purple dinosaur designs. “I started selling those because I had done school bake sales and the kids loved them.” She has even made special orders for teachers at PreK 280, the pre-kindergarten three blocks away where 400+ 4-year-olds from all over Brooklyn attend school. “I did Elephants and Pigs because they were reading a Mo Willems book about those characters,” says Marie. “Then we get thank you pictures drawn by the kids, and those go right up in the window.” The PreK has also created some foot traffic, as the children often wander in with parents after school for a 3pm treat. “There are certain kids with specific cookie tastes,” says Marie. “Today I need ladybugs—there’s a little boy who I know will want one this afternoon.”
It’s this type of attention to customers and neighbors, not to mention the sweet fare, that makes Regina Bakery a destination spot for South Slope, Windsor Terrace and beyond. “I believe in word of mouth,” says Marie. “It’s a community here, people come in to just talk and gather.”
In addition to selling cookies and desserts to neighbors, Regina Bakery also offers custom wedding and birthday cakes, which Marie creates, and special holiday treats like gingerbread houses and elegantly packaged cookie plates. “This was year two of doing the gingerbread houses, and we had to double what we made last year,” says Marie. Her daughters were here to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as always.
“This is where our Christmas happens, at the bakery,” says Frank. “Every holiday, we’re here, every day, really. We started in this spot, and this is our last stop.”