Shared Secrets to Success
Behind the scenes of Sydney institution Pasticceria Papa is a family business success story, built on the finest Australian ingredients and world-class facilities to make premium products that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
It’s these shared corporate values that have underpinned Papa’s longstanding relationship with Manildra Group – extending from the trusted supply of quality, 100 per cent Australian flour, sugar and canola oil for baking to, more recently, performance stockfeed for premium livestock in the Papa family’s expanding farming and food enterprise.
Papa’s investment in innovation extends from resorting to a generator in the early days, due to the lack of available mains electricity, to transforming a vacant block behind their first corner shop into a production and distribution facility that boasts state-of-the-art infrastructure, including a $1 million multi- functional machine producing up to 60,000 of their sought-after cannoli each week.
“Sal is the only person I know who will spend whatever it takes to do the best job,” said Manildra Account Manager Paul Ruggiero of Salvatore Papa, who runs the farming and investment arms of the business, with his brother Alex running production.
Alex said Papa’s had established a trusted relationship with Manildra in the past two decades as both family-owned businesses committed to the finest Australian-made products by pioneering and utilising the best technologies available.
A €300,000 blast freezer they bought from Monaco “is the Rolls Royce of blast freezers, making ice crystals so small that they’re invisible, so our products are not hard-frozen but perfectly fresh- chilled for transport”, said Alex.
“If there’s new equipment, Sal wants it,” added Paul. “If there are new ways to become efficient, he wants to do that. He wants customers to know it can’t be replicated and is the best. Where others try to cut corners on ingredients, Papa’s buy only high-quality products “Local macadamias, butter churned locally, flour – costs are no object when making a premium product.
“But the way the business is run is so efficient – it’s quite diversified, with Sal having a very big farm with wheat and barley crops and livestock. So to have gone from a small shop to buying a lot of different products from us is quite unusual.”
The Papa’s story began after Sal visited Australia on holiday from Italy and returned in 1988 to start a cafe serving up a slice of unmistakably authentic Italian fare, filling a gap in the market.
They’ve grown to three Sydney outlets including the beloved Haberfield café and a Bondi shop with 500 cakes on display, a cheese room and deli – both backed by their production and distribution powerhouse at Five Dock, with six trucks and 150-plus staff.
Papa’s supply about 300 cafes, restaurants, hotels and casinos and air-freight special orders across Australia. They’re also called on for catering from weddings to the Italian embassy and G7 Summit. But they still find time to participate in community events, such as a cannoli-eating competition at a festival last year, and sponsor community and school projects.
“We were at a festival in Five Dock recently and people still lined up for cannoli at the end of the day were fighting over the cakes and cannoli we gave away after selling three trucks of food,” laughed Sal.
“On weekends, we have shop- keepers asking us to manage our queue at the Haberfield cafe that’s sometimes seven stores down, but it does make me proud that people line up to get our products.”
Sal decided to go into farming at Bathurst to provide a genuine, quality-assured paddock-to- plate experience by controlling the quality, supply and logistics.
“I had never been a farmer and now I have 4000 sheep and 1000 head of Angus cattle, with a shearing shed on site for our sixth- generation Merino, producing high-quality wool,” he said.
“We trail the pellets from MSM Stockfeeds and the sheep love the flavour. Because it is so dry now, you should supplement their feed with something and I think for the price, it works well. The MSM Stockfeeds pellets has a lot of nutritional benefits that helps the cattle digest and the ewes are in very good condition.”
Sal said Papa’s now also occasionally sells wheat to Manildra.
“When I started the first shop, just coffee and cakes, we worked with a mill that would miss or forget to deliver flour. So I called Manildra – Dick Honan used to come in all the time.
“Their quality is good and I’ve never had a problem – Manildra looks after me and that’s important because when you start a company, you want to find people you trust. They make the customer happy and we want the same service that we supply our customers.”
The brothers’ wives and children are also involved in the family business. Sal said his 11-year-old son Max “already walks the floors tasting the food, and goes and tells the staff they’re doing a good job. He loves to make the fresh pasta. And my older daughter, Katerina, manages the Bondi store”.
Having invested tens of millions of dollars into infrastructure, the family’s thriving retail and wholesale operation is poised for even further expansion.
Alex said they wanted to create a training school, with some of their apprentices still working for Papa’s, as well as establish their own butter and cheese factory and on-farm dairy.
They are also looking to provide soft-serve direct with their gelato machine bought and fitted from Milan, Italy; as well as expand their bread line, recently recruiting a former Qantas catering specialist to manage accreditation for consistency of quality.