Julio Zito of former Zito & Sons Bakery dead at 83


By Albert Amateau

Julio Zito, born in the Bleecker St. apartment behind A. Zito & Sons Bakery, where the family business was located until it closed in 2004, died on April 15 in Dobbs Ferry Hospital at the age of 83.

He lived with Parkinson’s disease for the past 10 years and was in poor health since breaking a hip a year ago. He was in a nursing home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., when he took a turn for the worse, said his son, Anthony.

Julio Zito was the youngest of the seven children of Anthony and Josefina Zito, who came to New York from Palermo, Sicily, in 1914 with their baby daughter Francesca. They opened their first bakery on West Broadway in 1919, relocated it a short time later to Sullivan St., and on Dec. 1, 1924, moved it to 259 Bleecker St., where the family lived in a rear apartment and where Julio was born three weeks later.

Julio went to Our Lady of Pompeii elementary school just across Bleecker St. from the bakery.

“He was in the first graduating class of the school that opened there a few years earlier,” said Anthony.

Our Lady of Pompei Church was originally on Hancock St., a very short street that formerly stretched between Houston and Downing Sts., before the new church was built at the corner of Bleecker and Carmine Sts.

“Two years ago, Our Lady of Pompei celebrated the 75th anniversary of the new building, and my father was a guest of honor,” Anthony recalled.

Julio went to High School at LaSalle Academy on Second Ave. and shortly after graduating went into the Marines, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He was stationed in various locations from Guam to Saipan, and although he was not in combat, he spent a lot of time on a ship poised for an invasion of the Japanese home islands that never happened.

“He used to tell about being 88 days at sea on a boat so crowded that he would get on line for breakfast in the morning and by the time he finished he’d have to get on line for lunch,” Anthony said.

Julio was discharged from the Marines in 1946 and went to work with his father and brothers in the bakery. He soon met Elaine Novella, born and raised on Thompson St., and they were married in June 1948.

“He worked in the bakery but he had to get another job to buy me a wedding ring,” recalled his wife. The other job was with Durando & Son, the butcher two doors down from the bakery. Soon after their marriage, Julio and Elaine moved around the corner from the bakery to Cornelia St.

Along with his brothers, Charlie and Vincent (known as Jimmy), Julio ran the shop until his son, Anthony, became manager. Charlie died in 1998 and Jimmy, who had retired and was living in Hollandale, Fla., died at the age of 90 shortly after the bakery closed in 2004.

A. Zito & Sons had long since become a near-legendary Village institution by the time Frank Sinatra and his celebrity “Rat Pack” would get their bread baked fresh from the oven there early in the morning when they were in town.

Even after Anthony became the manager, Julio and Elaine continued to work at the bakery, but took time off to travel.

“All the things they didn’t do when they were young they did in the past 20 years,” said Anthony.

In addition to Anthony, of New Jersey, a daughter, Josephine Berical, of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter survive. Perazzo Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.