← Back

Village Preservation East Village Oral History: Robert Zerilli

Veneiro's Owner Robert Zerelli
Veniero’s Owner Robert Zerilli

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.

venieros-pastry-shop-new-york-nyBy 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.

2 responses to “Village Preservation East Village Oral History: Robert Zerilli

  1. Nice interview, but is Robert Zerelli really the grandson of the founder? The business was sold twice before he took it over, once by the founder’s son to his cousin, and then by that cousin to Robert Zerelli’s parents (who aren’t mentioned as related)..

  2. Hello,

    This message is for DrGeco and anyone else who is interested in my connection to Antonio Veniero. Antonio was my Great Uncle. My father Frank Zerilli’s Mother (Anna Merola) married Andrea Zerilli. Anna’s sister was Pasqulina Merola. Pasqulina married Antonio Veniero. Way back in 1856,
    Andrea Zerilli married a Rosa Veniero. We all have a family connection.

    Antonio’s son Michael Veniero (b. 1901)was the one who passed on the business to my father Frank Zerilli back in 1970. Mike passed away in 1977. My mother was then president until her passing in 2009. My 3 sisters and I now own the business.

    I hope that sheds some light on the family succession.

    Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *