Williamsburg’s treasured Settepani Bakery (602 Lorimer St.) is turning 30, and the Settepani family is inviting the whole neighborhood to celebrate with them.
Settepani’s 30th Birthday Party, complete with great food, drinks, and music, will take place on October 23 from noon – 3 p.m. at 602 Lorimer Street.
Settepani Bakery is a family-owned business, known for its delicious Italian bread, cakes, pastries, desserts, and year-round panettone, which takes four days to make. In Italian, the word Settepani translates to “seven breads,” making the family business almost inevitable.
The Settepani brand is helmed by Chef Nino Settepani, who has been a part of the restaurant business for 46 years. Nino’s parents immigrated to the United States from Italy when he was 14 years old. After settling in New York, the Settepanis found a bakery for sale in the Village area of Manhattan, and the family business was born.
However, Nino did not want to work at the bakery at first. After attending NYU, Nino interned at a bank in Greenpoint, but did not care for the business. After that, he became excited to join his family at the bakery.
The Brooklyn location of Settepani Bakery opened 30 years ago. The wholesale side of the bakery was expanding and needed more physical space. Nino chose the Williamsburg neighborhood because it is where he lived, and he wanted to be close to the wholesale location.
Nino’s daughter, Bilena Settepani, told Greenpointers, “We survived on wholesale for a long time, and had a fleet of vans that would load up pastries to hospitals, universities, and other big customers around the city.”
Then, of course, the pandemic crippled business for Settepani as it did for so many others. “We lost 90% of our business in an instant, as hotels and restaurants went out of business,” Bilena explained.
Bilena, who worked in fashion before the pandemic, ended up quitting her job to help her family at Settepani Bakery. She now helps with a little of everything, working mostly with marketing, but also as a baker. “The bakery is like my older sibling, and I could imagine life without it,” Bilena said.
During the pandemic, Bilena said that the Settepani family received letters and emails checking in, a testament to what the bakery and family meant to its neighbors.
The pandemic was not only hard for business, but difficult on a personal level for the Settepani family. First, Bilena’s mother, Leah Abraham, was diagnosed with cancer three days before New York shut down. Then, Filippa Settepani, Bilena’s grandmother and Nino’s mother, passed away.
Bilena said that Filippa “was the face of the bakery” and “made the place special.” She explained that the bakery used to have a magical feeling and that feeling has been lost since her grandmother passed.
Bilena desperately wanted to bring back the magic, and started doing small projects like painting a wall and removing lights that didn’t work. She also covered graffiti on the outside walls with artificial flowers and ivy. “It made the whole place prettier and more inviting,” said Bilena.
Bilena knows that Williamsburg has changed a lot over the past 30 years. The new clientele in the neighborhood is very different from how it used to be, and she believes for Settepani to succeed, they need to appeal to new neighborhood. “We need to get people through the door,” she said. “Wholesale is back, but we need foot traffic too.”
After the 30th anniversary celebration, Bilena said that locals can look forward to more fun and engaging activities like cooking classes or cookie decorating classes for the holidays.