Paul D. Lanza, 81; baker supplied stores in region

Posted: February 06, 2010

When Paul D. Lanza was 8, he already was working at his father's wholesale bakery in Bristol, learning the tricks of the trade - how best to mix ingredients and roll out dough.

By the time he was a teenager, he was working at A. Lanza & Sons Bakery full-time, and for nearly 50 years thereafter, Mr. Lanza provided fresh rolls and Italian breads to grocery stores from Trenton to Philadelphia.

But his claim to fame was conceiving the snack roll, his son Paul R. said.

Mr. Lanza, 81, of Burlington, died of lung cancer Thursday in his home.

He was born and raised in Bristol. In the early 1950s, Mr. Lanza was called to serve in the Korean War. He was assigned to fight in the field, his son said. But early in his tour, his Army unit was surveyed to see whether anyone knew how to bake bread.

Mr. Lanza immediately stepped forward and was put to the test. After a demonstration, Mr. Lanza was pulled from the field and made a mess sergeant. For the next two years, he cooked for the troops.

When he returned from the war, Mr. Lanza went back to the bakery full-time, sometimes seven days a week. But he managed to go out to a dance one night, where he met his future wife, Lucy Coccia. They married in 1956.

Mr. Lanza soon realized that fresh bread was not enough to succeed in the wholesale marketplace, so he developed rolls for snack sandwiches, his son said, adding that they became the big seller.

"My dad was the brains of the bakery," his son said.

The bakery on Dorrance Street lasted several decades under Mr. Lanza's leadership, until he sold it in 1982 to pursue a lower-key business.

Around 1984, he and his wife opened Coffee Break in Bristol. But Mr. Lanza's baker's hands were not content to be idle, so he started making doughnuts and pastries for the shop, which increased its popularity. The shop closed in 1994 after Mr. Lanza became ill, his son said.

Mr. Lanza pursued several hobbies. He raised and trained beagles, which won several awards in field trial competitions. Out of the four that he owned, Bessie was the most prized, racking up four awards, his son said.

Mr. Lanza's love for beagles developed out of hunting, an activity he pursued with his father and continued throughout his life. He also enjoyed deep-sea fishing, his son said.

Mr. Lanza also owned five trotting horses, which raced at area tracks in the 1970s. In recent years, though, he went to tracks to watch horses, not necessarily bet on them. "It was more of a pastime for him," his son said.

The hobby his grandchildren appreciated most was his cooking, especially homemade pizza. Mr. Lanza also was known for his turkey and stuffing.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Lanza is survived by a daughter, Michele; five grandchildren; two sisters; and a brother.

A viewing will be from 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow and 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Monday at Page Funeral Home, 302 E. Union St., Burlington.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, 223 E. Union St., Burlington. Burial will follow at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Burlington.

Contact staff writer Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917 or cvargas@phillynews.com.

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