Santa Cruz is well-known for its vegan roots.
However, one local candy shop, Marini’s Candies’, goes against the norm by offering chocolate covered bacon and various other bacon-inspired offerings.
The marriage of bacon and chocolate, two culinary juggernauts that easily stand on their own, is truly a bacon-lover’s dream.
Tastes So Right
Starting with hickory smoked bacon, Marini’s cooks it in the oven until the strips are a perfectly crisp golden brown before smothering them in chocolatey goodness. Either a special dark chocolate, or milk chocolate is used to coat the bacon. The result is a sweet and salty indulgent treat, guaranteed to wow the taste buds.
Marini’s also offers bacon brittle, made from salty peanuts and smokey bacon, that are mixed together in a mouthwatering buttery bliss.
Another bacon inspired treat is Vegan’s Nightmare Ice Cream, consisting of generous chunks of their chocolate covered bacon mixed into rich maple syrup ice cream (available only at the downtown location).
“It sounds so wrong. But it tastes so right,” says Joseph Marini III, the fourth-generation candy maker.
And indeed it does. Patrons flock from all over to get a taste of the bizarre combination, noting that Marini’s does chocolate covered bacon better than most because of the crispness of their bacon. Chewy bacon and chocolate is a no-no in the business. Luckily for Santa Cruz, Marini’s has their recipe down pat.
A True Mom-and-Pop Shop
Marini’s has a long-standing history as the oldest candy shop in Santa Cruz.
Coming from Italy in 1905, the Marini family has been in the candy business since 1915, when its founder, Victor Marini bought a popcorn stand at the Boardwalk. His son, Joseph Marini Sr., started working for his father at age 10. The business operations expanded and started making taste bud-tempting salt water taffy, candy apples, and caramel corn.
Nowadays, the business is run by several of the Marini clan including Joseph III, Nick, and Gino. They have kept the original 1915 location at the Boardwalk but have added three other locations: one downtown on Pacific Avenue, one on the wharf, and another location on the Boardwalk next to the Giant Dipper.
At the main Boardwalk location, customers can watch the salt water taffy pulls and see how the taffy gets wrapped in their antique Model K Taffy Wrapper, purchased in 1921 by Victor Marini.
Old Fashioned Treats
The Marini family has continued Victor Marini’s tradition of making fine candies, but has expanded their offerings to include various chocolates and fudge, peanut brittle, salt water taffies, and chocolate dipped nut clusters. They also offer caramel apples, gummy treats, English toffee, cotton candy, turtles, hand-dipped strawberries, homemade ice cream and sundaes, and of course, the chocolate covered bacon.
Stepping into any one of the stores transports you back in time to an old fashioned candy shop and soda fountain. It was a time when things moved a little bit slower, people were a little bit friendlier and stopped to say hello, and kids saved their pennies and nickels to buy treats from the candy store on the Boardwalk on a warm summer day. Adding bacon to the mix makes Marini’s like a dreamy slice of heaven.
Chocolate covered bacon may sound like a vegan’s nightmare, but if there were ever a reason to cheat, just once, this might be it.