Sunday, July 11, 2010

It's Back! Bonomo Turkish Taffy, Invented By Turkish Jew, Returns. And It's Kosher!

One of the pleasures of attending yeshiva in Washington Heights in the '50s was spending recess in Arthur's candy store on the corner of 185th Street and Audubon Avenue.  The big decision was always on what candy to spend the nickel that was burning a hole in our pocket, and more often than not, the candy of choice was Bonomo's Turkish Taffy.

Eating this heavenly candy was accomplished by a ritual unknown to today's candy lovers.  First you checked the package to make sure it wasn't too soft to move on to the next step.  It had to be hard.  Then you lifted the candy bar and smashed it on the pavement or on any hard surface.  Then you carefully opened it to see the dozen or so shards that it had broken into.  We're not making this up, and here's a video to prove it.

Sadly, Bonomo's Turkish Taffy disappeared from the market in 1989, after undergoing a packaging change, a naming change from Bonomo's to Bonomo, and sale to the Tootsie Roll company.  

The history of the candy was outlined in an obituary of Victor Bonomo, son of Alfred, the Turkish Jew in whose Coney Island factory the candy was created.  Victor died in 1999 at the age of 100, and as Michael T. Kaufman wrote in The New York Times,
The candy, which first appeared as a nickel bar after World War II, became a favorite with the economy-minded. Unlike some of its competitors, which melted in your mouth, Turkish Taffy eroded slowly, and it was so chewy that a single bar could last through most of a double feature at the movies.

Mr. Bonomo (pronounced BAHN-uh-moh) was born into the candy business and actually had Turkish roots. His father, Albert J., was a Sephardic Jew who had emigrated from Turkey. In 1897, the year before Victor Bonomo was born, his father started making candy in Coney Island to supply concessions at the amusement park. After World War I, Victor joined his father in running the candy factory on Eighth Street in Coney Island, where saltwater taffy and hard candies were produced.

As World War II ended, sugar rationing gave way and the entire country was eager to indulge its sweet tooth. Bonomo's joined the race to satisfy the surging demand, promoting three candy bars, ''Thanks,'' ''Hats Off'' and ''Call Again,'' which Tico Bonomo, Victor's son, described as ''poor man's Milky Ways.''

Then the candy cooks at the Coney Island factory came up with a batter of corn syrup and egg whites that was cooked and then baked.

''It was not really a taffy but what is technically known as a short nougat,'' explained Tico Bonomo. Nor was it Turkish. ''It was not a family recipe and the name we chose, 'Turkish Taffy,' just reflected clever marketing,'' he said.

It cooled into sheets the size of school desks, which were distributed through Woolworth stores around the country. Clerks at the candy counters used ball-peen hammers to whack the sheets, breaking off shards that were sold by the pound.
Eventually it made its way into individual candy bars and onto the shelf of Arthur's candy store.  Then we had to grow up, move away from Washington Heights, and never saw the candy again.

But last week we saw the amazing announcement.  Great news!  Bonomo's Turkish Taffy is back, and this time with an OU-Dairy certification for the chocolate, vanilla, and banana flavors.  (Who knows what certification, if any, it had back in the day when everybody assumed if was candy, it had to be kosher!)

We haven't seen it in any supermarkets yet and we haven't checked the few candy stores remaining in the suburbs, but you can buy this nostalgic treat online for about $20 for a case of 24 candy bars, at Old Time Candy or at Groovy Candies.  They also sell individual bars for about $1 apiece, and other candy that you won't find at your local store, like B-B Bats, Bit-O-Honey, Sky Bar and many more.  Enjoy!

(This blog post is dedicated to the Washington Heights Bonomo Boys:  Murva Regrebsiew, Namlak Dlawniehcs, Dranreb Ykswoktam, Dranreb Namrebeil, and Sirrom Namssorg a"h)


  1. Dentists loved it, too; GREAT for business ! (It would pull out your silver fillings !).

  2. Was my favorite candy growing up in the 70's! I recently spotted it at the gift shop connected to the Cracker Barrel restaurant in East Greenbush - Upstate NY. Just as good as the first time I tried it.Only this time, I not only had to watch out for my fillings, as the above poster mentions, I had to watch the "Crowns" on my teeth as well!

  3. I bought a bar at the Columbus flea market and auction in Columbus NJ. Shari's beauty warehouse sells them. her Email addr is she says she can mail them to whoever wants them. I paid one dollar for one. she had all four flavors for sale at he flea market, I bought a vanilla bar. my favorite.
    What a surprise to see them, Ihave not seen bonomo's turkish taffy in many many years. I was so happy, but worried about my filings.
    Mark Bay Shore NY

  4. I purchased all for flavors at a buck apiece. Only a nickel when I was a kid. The texture is the same but I am not sure of the flavor I can't remember. But I like it!!

  5. As an avid candy eater I was disappointed when this candy made it's comeback and found that it's not the exact same recipe that was around when I enjoyed it as a kid!!!!!

  6. This was my favorite candy as a kid but I was most disappointed when it made its comeback as it's not the same exact recipe used back in the 60's!!!!