David Moran owned a string of businesses and restaurants dating back to the 1980’s, including PA’s Luncheonette and PA’s Restaurant in Portland, and M.J. Richio’s and the Raymond General Store in Raymond. Photo courtesy Deb Moran

David Moran, longtime owner of Sorella’s Bakehouse in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood, died Aug. 1 after a brief fight with cancer. He was 63.

Moran opened Sorella’s in 2002 and made bread for several well-known Portland  restaurants and businesses, including Duckfat, Bruno’s Restaurant and Tavern, Maria’s Restaurant, Micucci Grocery and Leavitt & Sons.

Pete Leavitt, owner of Leavitt & Sons, said Moran was at the heart of the food and hospitality business in Portland. He called Moran an “unsung hero” of the city’s food scene.

“It all starts with the bread,” Leavitt said. “It was absolutely the best product you could have. If he wasn’t doing what he did, there’s a lot of people out there who wouldn’t be doing what they do. What he did for us was absolutely essential to the success of our business.”

Mr. Moran owned a string of businesses and restaurants dating back to the 1980’s. Some of those include PA’s Luncheonette and PA’s Restaurant in Portland, and M. J. Richio’s and the Raymond General Store in Raymond. He purchased the former Nappi’s Bakery and opened Sorella’s Bakehouse 17 years ago.

At the height of his career, Moran made bread for an estimated 200 to 300 businesses from Arundel to Woolwich. At the time of his passing, he was also making bread for Bow Street Market and Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro in Freeport, the Royal River Grill House in Yarmouth and the Tuscan Table in South Portland.

Maria Toppi, one of his two daughters, worked alongside her father for many years. She said he typically went to work at 4 a.m. to start baking and deliver the bread fresh in the morning. He also did the invoices and billing. Toppi said her father had a great relationship with his customers and worked long hours to provide them with quality products.

“He wanted to make one product really well and he did that,” Toppi said, noting her father preferred staying behind the scenes. “He liked the fact that people were going to these great restaurants and eating really good products.”

Moran had deep roots in Portland. He grew up on Atlantic Street in the city’s Munjoy Hill neighborhood, one of six children. He attended Jack Junior High School, then Portland High School, but left before graduating. He later earned a GED. In his early years, he joined the Merchant Marine and worked in commercial shipping. He also worked as a commercial fisherman.

John Moran described his brother as a caring person who made personal connections with people.

“We were solid,” his brother said. “I’d visit him at the bakery. He would hand me loaves of bread and say give this to your neighbor. He was that type of guy. He was the greatest guy in the world.”

His daughters remembered him this week as a great father and mentor to many people.

“He wasn’t a sitcom dad,” said Theresa Clark, his other daughter. “He was more of a free-thinking guy. Me and my sister could talk to him about anything. Though, we had to be prepared about what he would say in return. Sometimes we didn’t like it, but he told us what he thought. He told everyone what he thought. He told it like it was.”

He was married to Elizabeth (Nappi) Moran for 37 years. The couple lived in Portland and Falmouth before moving to a farmhouse in New Gloucester in 2009. Their daughters say they shared a good life together.

“He was so independent, but when it came to them together … he kind of just needed her,” Toppi said. “They worked well together. He made the food and she made the dessert. They had fun in the yard playing with the grandkids.”

Moran fell ill earlier this summer. Doctors found tumors throughout his body and eight lesions on his brain. Toppi said her mother never left his side. She said they were with him when he died.

“I’ll miss talking to him,” Toppi said. “We talked about everything. He lived a lot of life in 63 years.”

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the First Congregational Church, 19 Gloucester Hill Road in New Gloucester.

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