Obituary: Peter A. Benvenuti / Salesman for his family's bakery

Jan. 15, 1922 - Feb. 14, 2009

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Peter Aldo Benvenuti, the warm salesman for a family bakery that was famous for decades for the fresh Italian bread it supplied to grocers and households, died Saturday in Wellington, Fla.

Mr. Benvenuti, who lived in Scott before he retired to Florida with his wife in 1981, had suffered from dementia for the past two years. He died at Palm Beach County Hospice. He was 87.

He and his brother, Henry, started Benvenuti's Italian Bakery in Carnegie with their father, Angelo, in 1945, with Peter on the business side and the others doing the baking. Their father died in 1953, and the brothers continued the business until 1981.

"The bread that speaks Italian," was the bakery's slogan, and it became known throughout the Tri-State area. In its early days, Mr. Benvenuti went door-to-door in Carnegie, using his down-to-earth manner to persuade families to sign up for delivery of warm, aromatic baked goods in a time before bread was plastic-wrapped.

By the late 1960s, the enterprise outgrew its twin-oven space and moved to a bigger, automated plant in Bridgeville. A fleet of 21 trucks delivered to everyone from supermarkets to mom-and-pop grocers. There were about 75 employees, and that didn't count the many children of both brothers.

"If the people who enforced the child labor laws back then would have known about us, we would have been in trouble," Mr. Benvenuti's son, Dino, of West Palm Beach, Fla., said with a laugh.

It was typical after a Sunday morning in church for most of 11 children of the two families to be in the store or plant, selling or baking.

Mr. Benvenuti, originally from the Hill District, was just as famous in Scott for the large Christmas Eve and Super Bowl parties he hosted. He'd bake the bread for 8-foot hoagies that 100 or more people would come to the Borland Road home to dig into.

He was also a big golfer, fisherman and hunter, leading frequent trips with family and friends to a family camp in Ridgway, Elk County. People enjoyed being around Mr. Benvenuti, a plain-spoken man who enjoyed life.

"Benvenuti means 'welcome' in Italian, and that fit his personality," said his oldest son, Peter, of Kittanning, Armstrong County.

Mr. Benvenuti had Steelers season tickets throughout the 1970s, joining Peter in a celebratory scamper on the Three Rivers Stadium turf when fans poured out of the stands after Franco Harris' Immaculate Reception in the 1972 playoffs. He never gave up that hometown passion after moving to Florida, and a Terrible Towel joined him in his casket.

Though Benvenuti's Italian Bakery was done in primarily by the growth of in-house supermarket bakeries, the family's legacy in the business endures. Members of the family, primarily Henry's sons, run K.B. Pizza Crust Co. Inc., in Franklin, Venango County, selling pizza shells and other wholesale products.

In addition to his sons, Mr. Benvenuti is survived by his wife, Phyllis; another son, Henry, of Toronto; two daughters, Kristina Marquez and Annette Sheehan, both of Wellington, Fla.; a brother, Henry, of Bridgeville; 11 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Arrangements were by the Palms West Funeral Home in Royal Palm Beach, Fla.

Memorial donations may be made to the Knights of Columbus, MJ Benvenuti Council #8419, c/o St. Rita Church, 13645 Paddock Drive, Wellington, FL 33414.


Gary Rotstein can be reached at grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.


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