Michael Mercogliano, the “Mike” behind the famed Mike’s Pastry in the North End — where loyal patrons would return to from across the globe for a one-of-a-kind cannoli — has died, according to friends of the Mercogliano’s family and a funeral home representative.
“It is with the deepest sadness and sorrow that we announce the death of the grandfather, father, husband — the Owner of Mikes Pastry — Mr. Michael Mercogliano,” said a post on the shop’s Facebook page. “We will love and miss you everyday.”
Family members are in the process of making funeral arrangements for Mercogliano, said Courtney Fitzgibbons of Boston Harborside J.S. Waterman & Sons Waring-Langone Funeral Home. His wake will take place on Monday, and his funeral on Tuesday. Both will be open to the public, she said.
Mercogliano was 90, a Mike’s employee said Tuesday night in a brief interview at the shop.
“The phone’s been ringing off the hook,” he said. “I’ve been working here more than 20 years, and I’m not a blood relative, but he was like family. We’re all just trying to get through this.”
Another employee said this morning that he had died, and the family was not ready to comment.
Mercogliano presided over the Hanover Street bakery since 1946. His stepson, Angelo Papa, has been running operations of the bakery for several years, according to published reports.
The store is renowned for its tasty treats, sought out by presidents, tourists, and locals.
“Low-fat cookies? They taste terrible. They taste like clay,” Mercogliano was quoted as saying in a 1998 Globe story. “If you want low-fat, don’t come in Mike’s.”
Tuesday night, eager Mike’s patrons lined up by the dozen. Many exited onto Hanover Street cradling the bakery’s iconic white and blue box. This conveyer of cannoli is a common sight around town, dotting the landscape alongside MBTA stations and Red Sox caps.
Patron John Cochran first ate at Mike’s in 1989. He now lives in Los Angeles County and said he makes sure to stop in whenever he is in Boston on business.
“They have maintained their brand over the years,” he said while enjoying a pastry.
Cochran said he once hustled to snap up a box of Mike’s cannolis during a layover at Logan International Airport.
When Cochran sat on his flight — with his precious string-bundled cargo in hand — two fellow passengers tried to make a deal.
“‘I’ll give you $20 for one cannoli,’ one of the women said. I told her that my wife knew I was bringing Mike’s and I wouldn’t be allowed back home without them,” he said.
According to the 1998 Globe story, Mercogliano moved to the North End at age 12, and his family was straight off the boat from Italy.
“There were no pastry classes or cake-decorating seminars, no master’s degree in culinary arts, no apprenticing at the Ritz. Mike’s education came at his cousin’s bakery next door. It turned out that he had a flair for cannoli. Which is a little like saying Michelangelo had a flair for painting,” the Globe’s story said.
“There are folks—Mike among them—who think that he makes the best pastries in town, if not the world,” the story continued. “His secret? ‘Always use the best ingredients, and never skimp on anything.’”
In a brief phone interview Tuesday night, a spokesman for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, a fellow Italian-American, expressed sadness at Mercogliano’s passing.
“Mike’s Pastry sponsors countless local events, from providing cookies for our Christmas tree lighting to providing sponsorships to local schools and religious feasts in the North End,” said spokesman John M. Guilfoil. “Mr. Mercogliano was one of those people who simply never said no when someone needed his help.”
Bob Figarotta, of Orange County, Calif., in Boston on business, said during a stop at the pastry shop on Tuesday that he understands how small businesses can influence families and communities.
“My grandfather was an Italian barber. As a kid, my dad would send me over there to sweep hair off the floor,” said Figarotta, 42. “When someone passes away like this, it makes you think about the legacy of the business. Not just about the people you met, but about the relationships you had with them.”
Wendy Reidy of Concord, N.H., stopped at Mike’s for cannoli and lattes after picking up her daughter from Logan Airport.
“It’s a fun tradition we have,” Reidy said. “Whenever she flies in on college breaks, we drive in, pick her up, and go to dinner in the North End, and then we go to Mike’s.”