126 years since they opened their doors to residents in Little Italy, Cafe Roma is still a family business. Cafe Roma is currently owned by Vincent “Buddy” Zeccardi, who has managed the bakery for the past 56 years.
“I’ve been doing this since I’ve gotten out of the army which was in 1961 and that’s when I got married. My great grandfather, he’s basically the starter of it. My father and my Uncle and me followed on. And hopefully one of my kids will take over if they want to,” said Vincent.
Zeccardi said his transition into his job at Cafe Roma was natural. “As a kid I hung out here, I was always here after school. I lived in the neighborhood, a couple of blocks away. So it was something that has always been part of my life and part of the family,” he said.
Cafe Roma serves a wide range of delicacies such as gelato, pignoli cookies, and Italian cheesecake. Although Vincent specified that the cannoli is their most well known pastry and is often a popular order among customers.
Vincent said over the years they have continued to maintain an old-style tradition within their establishment. “We use all natural ingredients. We still do 99% of our baking by hand, don’t really use modern technology as much. All hand on. I think basically it’s natural ingredients we use in our cannoli. I mean we must be doing something right,” he said.
A typical day at work for Zeccardi consists of meeting and getting acquainted with customers. “You’d be surprised a lot of people coming in and asking questions about how our pastries are made. I don’t work on the floor over here as much. But when I do it’s always a pleasure to meet those who’ve taken an interest in our business. Its been part of me my whole life,” he said.
Vincent acknowledged the challenges and risks that come with working in the food industry in NYC. Although Zeccardi and his family have managed to attract customers both old and new while continuing to be a neighborhood favorite.
“We offer something really special that you’ll be satisfied with when you walk out. The food and the atmosphere, we believe we give other a certain quality you can’t get no where else. We’re doing our thing and we think we are doing it right,” he said.