“On busy days here, we might have 25 to 30 staff coming in and out to help with production and service. But that was before all this happened.” All this, Fabio Battaglia, a manager here at Francesca Bakery, is referring to how Covid-19 shook the foundation of this thriving family business. “Overnight, we had to rethink every aspect of our operation. We’re still adapting, day by day.”
The east end Sicilian and European style bakery that started in 1994 lost most of its full and part-time workforce within a few days, with most opting to stay home. “We have so many families and essential workers in the area that rely on us for hot and cold meals, pastry, cakes and groceries that we decided to stay open during the crisis to serve them and to help our own business keep up with expenses,” Fabio says.
With a reduced menu, the bakery has been able to offer a fair number of standard delights, like zeppole over Easter and St Joseph’s Day, as well as their very authentic cannoli. “We still made a lot of cakes because birthdays were still happening, and our regular clients still wanted to celebrate at home with family, with an Italian cake or other treats.”
As for the Battaglia family, well, they are doing what they always do – work hard at their craft. Angelo works the bread ovens and serves a variety of breads (yes, even sourdough) and deli meats. Fabio works the take out orders for hot table, coffee and sandwiches – he is busier than ever. Francesco is working with minimal staff in the back of the house to make sure there are quality products in the pastry display.
And even Francesca herself – a business travel consultant, having her own profession dismantled by the coronavirus, has come in to work the service counter. It’s been years since she has worked in the bakery, and the first time along with her grown sons and husband.
Another brother, Sal, is a police constable, so the entire family is working the front lines during the pandemic in some way or another.
If there is a silver lining to all this for the Battaglia family, it’s that they are reminded of how deeply they rely on each other in good times and bad and that the strength of family will get them through it all, no matter what.