The historic downtown square in Adel is experiencing a sweet and desirable smell: the scent of toffee.

Al Dente Toffee, owned by John Romano of Waukee, said his location at 109 N. 9th St. was perfect for his business.

"I just fell in love with the square and the narrow building was what I wanted for my shop," he said. "Adel is a great community, and I’m excited to be a part of it."

The hand-made toffee is a secret family recipe that was passed down to John from his grandfather, Giovanni, who came to America in the 1920s.

According to Romano, his toffee is unlike typical toffee which can stick to teeth.

"The name ‘Al Dente’ literally means to the tooth, so the name seemed fitting for the shop," he said. "My favorite thing to ask people is whether or not they like toffee. Those who say they don’t, I like to prove wrong by handing them a piece of my toffee. It’s easy to bite into."

Romano, who has been making toffee for the last 10-15 years, said he started by giving away toffee to his friends and family during the holidays. Then five years ago, he started entertaining the idea of opening up his own business.

"I got really serious about opening up a place last year after toying with the idea for the past five years," he said. "My wife thought I’m crazy, but she has been supportive because she knows this is what I want to do."

In order to make sure the shop runs smoothly, Romano’s daughter, Laura, overseas the daily operations.

"I have faith in her and think she will do a great job managing the store," he said. "We already have a loyal following. I think people really like having something new along the square."

Although the shop boasts toffee flavors like pumpkin pie pecan, orange dark chocolate and coconut dark chocolate, it also features pastries, coffee, gelato and sorbetto.

So far, customers seem to enjoy the ambiance and taste of something new.

"We ask customers when they come in to give us their opinions on what they like and don’t like," Romano said. "I think people like what we have to offer and are happy to see the building restored."

The business is currently open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. A ribbon cutting ceremony is expected to be held in the next couple weeks. For more information on Al Dente Toffee, go to