If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It at Zeppieri and Sons
When Carmine Zeppieri first came to work in the bakery he would eventually come to own, he couldn’t find the door. Having arrived from his rural town in Italy only months before, he could be forgiven for his bewilderment as he tried to navigate the busy Bronx streets. “He was standing on a corner and a local beat cop showed him the way,” says his son Carmine, Jr, also known as Butchie. After that first day, he never again lost his way. This family-owned mainstay in Pelham Bay is now approaching its 50th anniversary and shows no sign of slowing down or changing its ways.
Open every day of the year, Zeppieri and Sons Italian Bakery on Buhre Avenue offers a wide array of baked goods, starting with their traditional loaves of Italian bread. Other traditional Italian treats include fresh-baked sfogliatelle, lobster tails, cannoli and biscotti. Add to that deliciousness more recent additions such as Red Velvet Cake and Carrot Cake as well as the latest trend of made-to-order decorated fondant cakes and one begins to understand the scope of the business. “We’re an around-the-clock operation. The night shift bakes the bread and the day shift bakes the cookies and cakes,” Butchie says.
Everything about Zeppieri and Sons speaks to tradition. “We do a traditional kind of baking, no pre-mixes. Butter, eggs, flour, sugar, salt. We try to keep it simple,” Butchie says. His son, Carmine III, the third-generation family baker who has been mixing cookie batter while his father and I talk, comes over with a bowl filled with a lilac concoction to check for color. His father nods his approval. “This is how we do business,” Carmine III says. “It’s not going to change. It’s how it’s been done and how it will always be.”
Despite, or maybe because of, their adherence to tradition, Zeppieri and Sons has been able to adapt to clients’ changing tastes. Fondant cakes have become all the rage as celebrations require cakes to match their themes. “It used to be I’d put two flowers in the corners and write ‘Happy Birthday Mom’ on top and that was enough. In the last five years, everyone wants cakes with figures. I’m making a jungle-themed one right now with elephants and giraffes. We even make cakes with photographs using edible ink,” Butchie adds. “But it’s still the same idea. We’re going to make it from scratch.”
Taking me to the back, Butchie opens the wall-to-wall oven and I watch the rotating racks churn slowly, steadily. “It’s never turned off,” he says. On this chilly day, I enjoy the warmth emanating from the oil-fueled oven. The oven, like Carmine Zeppieri and his namesakes who have followed him in the business, is reliable and consistent. And so is Zeppieri and Sons Bakery as they look forward to their next 50 years in Pelham Bay.
3004 Buhre Avenue Bronx, NY 10461
For more tasty baked good photos follow Zeppieri on Instagram
Check out their amazing cake gallery