As Ernest Cioto walked through his industrial kitchen on Railroad Street in Bradford, he beamed with pride over the confections sending a flurry of orange, lemon and anise into the air.

Cioto, who launched Ernie's Biscotti Bites in January of this year, is in talks with major grocery store chains to get his packages of a dozen cookies on their shelves. Currently you can only buy them at smaller retailers around Haverhill and in the North End of Boston.

This week he will open up a retail outlet at 38 Railroad St., just past Crescent Yacht Club. Because his outlet will be just around the corner from the bakery, customers can enjoy fresh cookies right out of the oven in the newest flavors.

"Anyone can come in and buy their cookies at the wholesale price," said Cioto, adding that with the view of the Merrimack River from his outlet, he hopes to set up tables in the spring for customers who wish to relax and enjoy their biscotti as the water rushes by.

The cookies are much different from traditional crispy biscotti: They are chewy, rounded, and dipped in a flavored glaze.

"It is a 100-year family recipe that I've taken and modernized," Cioto said. "It's a smaller, softer, more vibrant type of biscotti. I want to sell a traditional Italian cookie in the grocery store. I'm taking a traditional cookie and making it available to all."

Cioto buys all of his oils from the North End in Boston, the region's hub of Italian heritage. In view of the North End's high standards for authentic Italian delicacies, Cioto is proud that shops there have chosen to sell his new product. He is also proud that his cookies are made from all-natural ingredients and have no trans fats.

The flavors of his cookies are orange, lemon, anise, cherry, banana, amaretto and pumpkin spice, but soon he hopes to offer chocolate and perhaps cranberry as the holidays near.

"I want to be the Baskin-Robbins of biscotti," he said, chuckling.

Cioto grew up in Medford but most of his large, Italian family was from Boston. The biggest feasts were on holidays, when treats like biscotti were plentiful.

"Everyone always loved (the cookies), but we had to wait for the holidays for someone to make them," he said.

Cioto now has an Italian family of his own in Boxford, where he lives with his wife, Lisa -- a breeder of Jack Russell terriers -- and his children, Sal, Dom, Gino and Gianna.

Cioto, who is also president/owner of Extreme Plumbing in Boxford, says he will never stop his plumbing business, because so many people rely on his service. The biscotti business is mostly about expanding his horizons and spreading a delicious Italian tradition, he said.

"I did (the baking) as a change of pace to the plumbing monotony," said Cioto, who fielded calls throughout the morning from customers needing heaters fixed and turned on.

One call in particular tickled Cioto, from a friend to whom he had given samples of his Biscotti Bites. The caller praised the cookies as "absolutely fabulous."

"I love that kind of response," Cioto said, smiling.

The plumber-turned-baker admits he was a bit intimidated when he first looked into starting the business because of permitting, labelling requirements and the expense itself, but his gamble appears to have paid off.

Although thrilled with his success so far, Cioto is not that surprised.

"I did have high hopes, I'm not going to lie," he said. "I was completely behind the product and I believed in it. I kept tweaking it, making it different sizes, and it just started to snowball from there.

Cioto, who worked in a deli with his father from the age of 9, insists that he will never get too full of himself no matter how successful he becomes, because he's a blue collar guy who has worked hard his whole life.

"I am who I am and nothing's going to change that," he said. "But why not me? I look at guys like Forbes and Chrysler and I know it's possible. This is the American dream."

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