Nicolo's Bakery: A Family Affair

by Melody Kettle

Anyone with a faint nose for gastronomy knows when they’re near a bakery.  I do; I grew up working in a wholesale bakery in Hackensack. So when we shot a video at Nicolo’s Bakery, it was trip down olfactory memory lane. 

Among foodies and bread enthusiasts, Nicolo’s has established serious “street cred.” Nicolo’s is not a new-age gluten-free type of bakery; it’s an old world Italian bakery.  The building, located at 6 Baldwin Street in Montclair is 115 years old, and was originally outfitted with a coal-burning oven.

Nicolo Zecchino purchased the space in 1967 and has been turning out stellar, crusty, tasty, authentic Italian-bread since then.  Eventually, the Zecchino family expanded the operation, adding prepared foods and a deli menu.

Watch the video to take a tour of Nicolo's Bakery and learn the life-cycle of bread!

Zecchino FamilyThe Zecchino Family prides itself on maintaining the bakery a family business.  Following graduation from college, Nicolo’s three sons, Nick, Donnie, and Joe, joined their father in running the bakery, and daughter, Nicole, works in the front.

Nick Zecchino gave us a tour of the bakery, beginning with the industrial mixer that kneads up to 400 pounds of flour, along with the other ingredients - water, salt, yeast, and vegetable shortening. Nick then showed me the dough divider, and then we walked over to the kneading tables, and the wheeled racks where the rolls and loaves are placed to rise. 

But that wasn’t all –  then we took a peek at the steam boxes that accelerate the rising action, and then we visited the “retarder,” which is a walk-in refrigerator that impedes the rising of the dough to create the tangy flavor of a slow ferment. 

Finally, we discussed the enormous brick lined, revolving oven that Nicolo's uses to bake all it's bread!  It's a multi-racked inferno, that's fired by an oil burner which goes into a firebox under the bottom panel.  The shelves rotate so that bread gets even color, while steam is sprayed to give each loaf a nice crisp!

But it’s not just bread at Nicolo’s, they also offer homemade lunch and dinner platters for pickup and catering, fresh deli sandwiches, salads, and specialty sauces, pastas, and cured meats.

My recommendation: the seeded semolina – among the finest I’ve ever had!

Nicolo’s is open 6 days a week, closed on Mondays.

Want to gain some foodie street cred? Who knows what "Ciabatta" means in Italian? And why would a loaf of bread be called a such a thing?