Family of Bakers

  • Biscotti and Me
  • Michael DiCamillo

Biscotti and Me

Fancy Food Show 1983, Michael & Theresa Di Camillo.

There is always a moment, or a product that sets loose an entirely new trend in the marketplace. Invariably, it is on the shoulders of what came before, but there is that moment when something explodes on the scene with all the newness of new life. I was fortunate to have been there at such a moment. 

Still, to have been the first is no guarantee of longevity, profit-- or even the recognition of originality.  I have been fortunate to have experienced all of them.  

Di Camillo Storefront 14th Street - 1925

In 1920 my grandparents set in motion a humble enterprise in Niagara Falls, New York: a bakery and a grocery store.  They made bread and biscotti for their neighbors. Against incredible odds, this family enterprise continues to this day.

Our Original Biscotti Di Vino Bag

In 1979 I took our family’s Biscotti di Vino and put them in a brown coffee style bag, tied a piece of brown ribbon around the bag, and sketched a label. With all the confidence of youth, I packed my samples and headed to New York City.  I knew what was happening in food retailing, as I had lived around the corner from Zabars in the mid-1970s. It seemed to me, at the time, that every week they had taken over a new storefront on Broadway. The vitality of “food-halls” in the upscale department stores—Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus was hard to miss. The Silver Pallet,  E.A.T., and Balducci’s were among the most exciting. The sight of bags of “Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies” in Bloomingdale's window stuck with me!  However, it was the opening of Dean & Deluca that made me see my future.  

Michael Di Camillo, 1982

My samples in hand I walked into these stores, and sold them on the spot!  It was from these sales that word spread. Simply being on the shelf of these iconic stores was enough. Word spread with a rapidity I’ll never forget. Calls came to us from all over the country without engaging any sales-force, or agents. The internet was still over a decade away. The New York Times was the first to give us national media recognition.  On Wednesday December 3, 1980 Florence Fabricant wrote: “One of the more sophisticated cookies to appear in recent months is Di Camillo’s Biscotti Di Vino, buttery, sesame coated red wine sticks”.

Bloomingdale's 1980, Michael Di Camillo

My timing had been perfect. Before that simple bag of our Biscotti di Vino appeared in the hallowed food-halls of New York, “biscotti” was generally an unknown food outside of the Italian-American community in America. But the next ten years saw an ever-growing recognition, and our menu of biscotti grew with it. The Fancy Food Shows spread the word with a staggering momentum. Bloomingdale’s window-displays of Di Camillo biscotti followed, and we became a fixture in the Nieman Marcus catalogue. It was a dream come true.

By 1990 the specialty food market was awash in American biscotti companies who had been inspired by our success. Many penetrated the market more massively, expanded the category, and took the concept in different directions. All of them helped to make this country more aware of this Italian take on a cookie. It was again the New York Times that caught the tenor of what had happened. It was Marian Burros who wrote the half-page article on biscotti, Wednesday October 20, 1993 which she titled "For The ‘Deny Me’ Decade, The Right Cookie”. I am proud of the fact she listed Di Camillo Bakery first.  

Marshall Fields, Chicago 1982, Michael Di Camillo

This in a nutshell is how it all began, and why today any reasonably-informed twelve- year-old in North America knows what “biscotti” is.   

Michael Di Camillo Fancy Food Show, NYC Coliseum 1982


  • Michael DiCamillo

Comments on this post (6)

  • Jun 25, 2016

    Congrats on your Specialty Foods Hall of Fame Award, Mike! For the Berkmans, it was love at first bite – DiCamillo Biscotti di Vino have been a family favorite since I took the very first bag home to Cleveland decades ago…not to mention the fudge tarts, and the chocolate-enrobed biscottii, and the macaroons, and the broccoli pizza, and of course the bread! AND the best panettone ever! Some of my favorite addictions!

    — Bob Berkman

  • Jun 16, 2016

    June 16
    Good morning, Michael,
    It was fun speaking with you yesterday. I recounted our conversation to Mom this morning and she laughed and said that she would be glad to “give a testimonial” for Di Camillo. In reading this article, I believe she has eaten your product since its arrival in the marketplace. Whatever year you first had them in Neiman’s, she has been eating them ever since. We discussed how on her 80th birthday she packed several boxes of them to take to England and Wales for a trip the family planned to celebrate.
    This will be fun and she is more excited than she has been in a long time. Thanks!

    — Suzann Dvorken

  • Jun 03, 2016

    Love the biscotti, love the family, love their style!

    — uliana petrucci

  • Jun 02, 2016

    What a beautifally written article. Thank you for sharing history with us!

    — Mary holland

  • Jun 01, 2016

    Hi Michael -
    Just found your lovely “Family of Bakers” article and had to write to tell you how much I enjoyed it. Even though we are pretty familiar with your family’s story, it was great fun to read – maybe you should do more writing (in your spare time)!
    Also wanted to let you know that I’ll be leaving Solari in the next few weeks – I’m certainly going to miss the store, but Bob and I are both ready to try something new (not sure what) and have a little more down time for travel and just relaxing. If we’re near Niagara Falls we’ll be sure to let you know. In the mean time I’m going to try to convince Terrie that she needs to start ordering from DiCamillo again – will keep you posted on that -


    — Jane Clark

  • May 31, 2016

    Loved this. A true American success story! This biscotti is the first and remains the best in this country because Di Camillo’s never sacrificed quality on the way to the top. Really enjoyed reading this and remembering their wonderful history.

    — Jim Walden

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