Family-Run NYC Bakery Expands to Freehold: ‘We Feel Really at Home Here’

The Settepanis have brought their panettone and cannoli to Monmouth County.

Bruno's Bakery
The Settepani family runs Bruno's Bakery in Staten Island and Freehold. Photo courtesy of Bruno's Bakery

Father and son Biagio and Joseph Settepani are new to the Garden State.

They moved from Staten Island to Monmouth County during the pandemic, and opened Bruno’s Bakery earlier this month in Freehold. The bakery, which also operates its original location in Staten Island, offers Italian and French pastries, coffees, panettone and other house-made treats. Biagio bested Bobby Flay with his cannoli on a 2013 episode of a Bobby Flay Throwdown. 

Biagio’s love for baking began when he moved from Italy to America at age 13 and found a job in a Brooklyn bakery. He made baking a career. Son Joseph, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, now operates both Bruno’s locations with his father.

The Staten Island location has been open for 20 years as both a restaurant and bakery. The Freehold location, strictly a bakery, is “getting back to Bruno’s roots,” Joseph says. “We feel really at home here.”

Joseph’s wife, Daniela, and his sister, Fina, also work at the bakery, planning events and running social media.

“For me,” Biagio says, “it’s a blessing to have my kids around every day.”

How has Freehold responded to the opening of Bruno’s?
Joseph: It’s been phenomenal. Everyone has been coming in and giving us best wishes. We have really felt the community spirit. Our family has been stunned by the turnout we have had all week. We couldn’t have dreamt it up any better.

Biagio, what drew you to this kind of career?
Biagio: I came from Italy at the age of 13. I needed to find a part-time job after school back in 1973. I went to work for a local pastry shop in Brooklyn and I was very intrigued with the business and bringing pleasure to people. That intrigue grew into a passion.

Did you learn everything on the job?
Biagio: I like to say I am self-taught! I took a few pastry classes around the states and even in France. I am always trying to learn something new, and whenever I did, I would bring it back to the bakery. I became a Certified Master Baker at the Culinary Institute of America, which was like a bucket-list thing I wanted to do. It was really personal for me.

Joseph, did you always know you would follow in your father’s footsteps?
Joseph: No! When I was growing up, I despised this kind of work. It was too much. I guess growing up, you develop a different mindset and begin to appreciate and view things a different way. I traveled with my dad on some trips, and started thinking, “This is really cool.” Later that year, we visited my dad’s hometown. That’s when my whole vision of the pastry world changed for the better. Since then, I’ve been [following] his footsteps!

What led you to open Bruno’s in New Jersey?
Joseph: During Covid, our family moved out here to New Jersey. It started with my parents; then my sister and her husband and my wife and I all followed. It was perfect timing. Once we got here, we thought it would be such a great area to open a Bruno’s. After opening up these last few weeks, we feel very much at home. Now we are just waiting for my brother to move out here!

Do you have some favorite bakery items?
Joseph: My father has taught me how to make a panettone from scratch. We do seven different flavors, and they all come in beautiful packaging. They are already available in both locations and are perfect for the holidays.

What is it like growing your bakery as a family?
Joseph: It’s exciting, it’s fun. Sometimes we want to kill each other!

Biagio: I never forced my kids to follow in my footsteps, and they decided by themselves to go to culinary school. My daughter went to college for event planning and now plans all our events, wedding cakes, parties. It can be challenging because sometimes you have bad days, but that’s family.

What’s your favorite thing about living in New Jersey?
Joseph: Being 10 minutes from work! A lot of things have changed over the last few years, and being part of this community is special for us, especially since my sister and I both have kids. Our business is growing and so are we. Our motto right now is that Bruno’s is going back to the beginning.

Biagio: Opening this location [has been] déjà vu for me. Thirty-eight years ago, my wife and I moved out of Bensonhurst, [a neighborhood in Brooklyn,] to Staten Island to raise our kids. It’s kind of why we moved to New Jersey—to give my grandkids a better quality of life. For me, what comes first is family.

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