Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Vittoria Lattanzio and Pasquale De Ruvo, Co-Owners of Panzerotti Bites, located in Brooklyn, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My husband Pasquale and I grew up making and eating panzerotti with friends and family in our Italian region, Puglia. Since everybody loves panzerotti, our customers are from 2 years old kids to the elderly. Every day we welcome all kinds of customers, from New Yorkers to Americans from other states to international tourists. Our focus is panzerotti, a half-moon-shaped pocket of dough filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella. It’s fried until golden or oven baked. The dough is super light and digestible, made with imported semolina flour. Other than cheese and tomato, we have other fillings, like mortadella, artichokes, tuna in oil, spicy salami, and Nutella. Wash it down with an ice-cold beer or even water, wine, or soda. In our establishment, we accommodate 20 indoor seats, and there’s a small private backyard and amazing espresso to finish up the authentic Italian experience. Salute!
Tell us about yourself
Since we are currently the only physical location dedicated to panzerotti in the country, we are so honored and proud to be panzerotti ambassadors. When Italian tourists visit our Brooklyn store, they say we are well known in Italy as the heroes of panzerotti since it’s every Italian’s dream to come to the USA to sell these. We stick to tradition and no compromise and educate our customers to eat authentic, good, and quality ingredients. It’s our mission every day.
We are a married couple and live and work together 24 hours a day. We love being together, and eight years ago (when we were still living in Italy), we started thinking of the American dream. Panzerotti put people together, and we love being together. It wasn’t easy at the beginning: from the business plan to finding a good location and an apartment that accepted foreigners and to the visa interview. But we did it all for the strong love we have towards our region of Italy and because we wanted to make people eat and appreciate the authentic Apulian panzerotti.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
50% of businesses that open up in New York close down within a year, statistics say. Surviving the pandemic and having our business for more than 5 years is a great accomplishment—our families in Italy are very proud of us. Running a business is never easy and straightforward. Having it abroad is even harder. But if you are strong, motivated, and informed, you can make it. We always say that it’s crucial to respect customers and have an open mind. Our hard work of introducing panzerotti never ends, and our biggest accomplishment is when a “skeptical” customer comes in and trusts our suggestion, and after eating their panzerotti, falls in love with it to the point of becoming a returning customer, coming back with friends and spreading the words, other than leaving a great review. It pays back all of our hard work. Grazie!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
- Your business success is based on your decisions. What’s best for your business doesn’t always match what is best for you. For example, the best decision for us would be to stay open every day, but we cannot work 7/7, 10 hours a day. We are a family.
- Facing expenses that always go up is tough. Every penny is important, so don’t waste your money on investing too much in something you are not sure about.
- Watch out for dishonest competitors. Some people litterally copied our business in Manhattan: they were making a terrible product with a logo that was almost the same as ours in a store that looked and felt like ours. Customers were confused, so we brought them to the federal court, and finally, they closed down.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- The smaller, the better. Family-owned businesses are straightforward. You don’t have to worry too much if an employee doesn’t show up because you can count on your partner. The business goal is the same as the family goal, so nobody will try to stop its growth and steal something. Family is solid, and quality and expectations will always be the same.
- Make something different. Don’t open up basic restaurants serving smoked salmon, branzino, Caesar salad, and eggs. Make something unique. Make a difference in your neighborhood.
- Consider working when it’s really worth it. Is it worth staying open every single day, in every season? Think about working in specific hours where there’s foot traffic, or even focus your 24/h business online. It allows you to work remotely even.
Where can people find you and your business?
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