Village Preservation is excited to share our oral history collection with the public, and hope they will shed more light on what makes Greenwich Village and the East Village such unique and vibrant areas. Each of these histories highlights the experiences and insights of long-time residents, usually active in the arts, culture, preservation, business, or civic life of the neighborhood. Recently we launched new collections focusing on the East and South Villages, and have been highlighting some of the featured individuals on Off the Grid. These posts can be found here, and the entire oral history collection here.
Robert Zerilli is the grandson of Veniero’s founder. Robert was born in New Jersey and moved to New York City at the age of 18 to work at the bakery. His oral history includes great stories about the early years of the bakery, growing up in and around the business, and continuing the family legacy, all in the context of the ever-changing, extremely vibrant East Village.
Veniero’s has been located between 1st and 2nd Avenues at 342 E 11th St. since it opened over 120 years ago. In 1885 Antonio Veniero immigrated to America from Southern Italy, and in 1894 he opened his store, selling homemade candy, roasted espresso, and biscotti. The Veniero family lived at 340 East 11th street. That building’s ground floor units now include the Veniero’s cake-order pickup desk on the east and the Village Veterinarian on the west.
By the 1920’s this family run pasticceria was specializing in cake and Veniero brought over several “masrto pasticcieres” (master bakers) from Sicily to run the kitchen. In 1931, Veniero’s founder Antonio passed away, leaving the business to his son, Michael. The business and neighborhood faced a slow decline through the late 1950’s and 60’s, and the original Italian immigrants moved out of the neighborhood. Michael’s cousin Frank began working at the store as a teenager, eventually managing the bakery and purchasing the business in 1970. Robert Zerilli’s parents, Frank and Marie (Honey), purchased the business in 1970. This successful business has been an East Village staple for residents for over 120 years, and has become extremely popular with tourists.
Listen below to hear highlights from the Robert Zerilli oral history, or click here for the full oral history and transcript. Listen to Village Preservation’s oral histories from the East Village, South Village, Westbeth, or Preservation Pioneers.