Zito’s Bakery, a Family Legacy Read More
In honor of Italian-American Heritage Month, discover the multi-generational history behind a New York City landmark, through a photograph in the Jewish Museum’s collection.
“My family was impressed with Berenice Abbott’s photos and were proud to be included in her work that highlighted this area of Greenwich Village.”
Berenice Abbott is best known for her black and white photographs of New York in transition in the 1930s. Sponsored by the Federal Art Project, a New Deal program, Abbott produced over 300 photographs of New York’s urban landscape, culminating in the book Changing New York, which was published to coincide with the 1939 New York World’s Fair. One of the photographs in this series is an image of A. Zito & Sons, the famous Italian bakery once located in Greenwich Village.
Antonio Zito emigrated from Palermo, Sicily with his wife Josephine, opening Zito’s bakery on Bleecker Street in 1924. The bakery was well known for their delicious crusty wheat bread, a staple at any Italian family’s Sunday dinner. Zito’s was run by Antonio and Josephine’s grandson, Anthony, at the time it closed its doors in 2004, after 80 years of producing a beloved New York staple.
Anthony Zito happens to be my sister-in-law’s father, and I was able to ask him some questions about the photograph.
The woman in the photograph is Zito’s matriarch, Josephine. Anthony pointed out that there is another person in the photo as well. If you look closely to Josephine’s left, you can see her son Jack, Anthony’s uncle.
Anthony noted that people always asked about the word “sanitary” on the window. According to Anthony, “Back then if you passed the health inspection you were able to put the word sanitary on your window so everyone would know your store had passed.”
Anthony said that the family found out about the photo from Berenice Abbott herself. Not long after she took the photos, she stopped by the bakery, as well as to the other stores she photographed on the block, to talk to all the businesses and people on the street about the photos she took.
The Zito family “loved the photo and felt like it brought prestige to the bakery,” Anthony said. “My family was impressed with Berenice Abbott’s photos and were proud to be included in her work that highlighted this area of Greenwich Village.”
Shortly after Abbott died in 1991, a signed copy of this photo was delivered to the bakery as a gift to the Zito family. The grandchildren and each of the great-grandchildren of Antonio and Josephine Zito have copies of this photo displayed in their homes today.
—Daniela Stigh, Director of Marketing Communications
Discover more photographs of iconic New York City landmarks in the Jewish Museum’s collection by visiting TheJewishMuseum.org/Collection.