Bacco's Bakeries: national success calls Newcastle home

Kristy Papagni can vividly recall the early beginnings of Bacco’s Bakeries.

Pregnant with her first child, Papagni and Italian husband Luigi worked in a makeshift bakery set up in their home in the Mornington Peninsula with dreams of one day opening their own bakery to sell their handmade Italian-style products.

“It was just the two of us,” she says. “I was pregnant at the time and we started from home, so I’m sitting there rolling these breadsticks and then went and had the baby, and my husband came [to hospital] and saw me and then said ‘I’ve gotta go home and bake those breadsticks’. [laughs] I remember thinking ‘Wow, one day we might actually have a bakery’.”

From the humble breadsticks that used a recipe typical of Luigi’s hometown of Bisceglie in southern Italy, the couple moved on to making crispbreads – now known as Bacco’s leaves – and from the first batch, they knew they were on to something.

“Our distributor said ‘We want to go into business with you’ because they saw how quickly they sold. That gave us the confidence to then set up a bakery.”

There’s something about bread, making it and baking it, and bringing it home and cutting it on the board, it’s really part of our roots as humans. It’s beautiful.

Kristy Papagni

That was 17 years ago. The product was a success and paved the way for Bacco’s Bakeries which sells products in most states across Australia.

The couple, who married in Italy years earlier after meeting while travelling as backpackers, moved from Victoria to set up in Murrurundi (Kristy’s parents lived in Scone at the time) as a wholesale bakery. In August last year, the Papagnis – including their son and daughter – packed up their ovens and moved to Newcastle where the bakery has a new home at Fleming Street, Wickham.

The good news for Novocastrians is the Papagni’s range of freshly baked goods are now available retail too. Sourdough (ciabatta, casaliga, pagnotta), pizza breads, focaccia and a revolving range of delicious slices (including dulce de leche caramel slice and prune, chocolate, and brandy brownie) and cakes. Whole cakes can be purchased by the slice, or whole, including: lemon, coconut and polenta cake; zucchini, walnut, sultana and olive oil cake; and the popular lemon ricotta cheesecake.

Coffee is available and Bacco’s is in the process of setting up extra outdoor seating to encourage customers to stop for a while, and planning to open on Saturday mornings for the first time. Bacco’s packaged items, including the Bacco’s leaves, sweet biscuits, grissini and muesli, are also on the shelf. They will be baking traditional panettone for Christmas again this year and are ready to take orders.

The story of Bacco’s began when New Zealand-born, Queensland-raised Kristy and Luigi decided to move from Italy to Australia. She had a background in beauty therapy, while Luigi had worked in the garments industry, but both had an appreciation for great quality food.

“There’s three chefs in my family,” Kristy says. “When we grew up in the country in Queensland, we had our own cows, ducks, chooks and pigs and we would eat off the land. Food was like your medicine. It was important where it came from and what flavour it had.

“The town that my husband is from in south Italy has got the best-tasting food in the world. I’ve eaten in many places and the soil there just makes everything three times more flavoursome.”

When they decided to move to Australia, Luigi’s family had concerns when they learned that the couple didn’t have a solid plan in place.

“We were like ‘We’ll just go there and see what happens’ and you just don’t do that in Italy,” Kristy laughs. “You could see they were concerned that we were just going to go to Australia with nothing.”

The answer came in the form of olive oil – one-and-a-half tonnes of the stuff to be exact. They shipped the high quality extra virgin olive oil to Australia where they shopped it around to the best restaurants in Sydney, picking up support from chefs Neil Perry and Matt Moran, before they decided to focus on the baking side of the business.

“There’s something about bread, making it and baking it, and bringing it home and cutting it on the board, it’s really part of our roots as humans. It’s beautiful,” Kristy says.

“The Italians eat bread with their dinner, with the chopping board at the table and discussing the bread, and at breakfast time as well. Taste this, look at this and try this. It’s a big part of our day.”

Bacco’s Bakeries, 15 Fleming Street, Wickham. Monday to Friday, 7am to 4pm. 4044 3341.