26th of May, 2016

By Tania Kanaan

It’s 7:20am Saturday morning and the Papa Patisseria store in Sydney’s Haberfield has a 3-metre line of customers waiting outside the entry, waiting to get their hands on a freshly baked ricotta cheesecake. Founder and owner Salvatore Papa, first came to Australia in 1970 when he decided to add his own twist to the Italian food culture.

In 1987, Papa visited Australia on a holiday. During his holiday in Sydney, Salvatore noticed that there was an absence of ‘Italy’ in the bread and pastries served to the Australian people. As a result, the following year in 1988, Salvatore audaciously returned to Australia and established his business in Haberfield.

Growing up in Sicily, Italy, Papa was constantly inspired by how his family members would cook around him on a daily basis. Papa reminisces, “when I was really young in the 70s my family, brother and cousins would be cooking and they would teach me everything.” Going to school and then working at the age of 13, in a small patisserie in Italy, Papa learned how to make and do everything.“I have four brothers and one sister. My eldest brother and my older cousins would teach me a lot.” Understandably, Papa used his childhood experiences to play a significant role in influencing his ongoing passion for food.

After visiting Australia in his early 20s, Papa had a vision for his future and was excited by the possibilities Australia had to offer him, therefore, he stayed. “When I came to Australia, I realised that there was a lot missing from the Italian culture. My parents wanted me to go back to Italy but I wanted to stay.” Having worked hard in order to save enough money to open his very first shop in Haberfield, Papa worked two jobs at the age of 21. During the day, he would go to his cake baking job and at night time, he would go to his bread baking job. “When I had just enough money, I started my first small shop. It was difficult to start everything because I started with nothing.” It was clear that Papa’s hard working nature and dedication to his craft has paid off.


Freshly rolled up scrolls, ready to be baked.

Serving high quality Italian food and deserts in three popular Australian locations, his warm and inviting restaurants are located in three popular Sydney suburbs of Haberfield, Five Dock and Bondi Beach. He now also has 10,000 square metres worth of space in his Five Dock store for both the cafe and the factory. He has 140 employees working on the pastries, cakes and bread. He also owns a wheat farm which he uses to bake his own bread, in his factory. The brown boxes used as packaging have the short and catchy motto which reads,“Papa knows best!”

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Papa Salvatore in his factory making tiramisu

Papa explains, “we make 1 000 ricotta cheesecakes a day, and at Christmas time we make 10 000. We usually need 5 to 6 employees daily just to make ricotta cheesecakes”. Many Sydney-siders have raved on about it as the infamous baked ricotta cheesecake. Haberfield local resident, Hannah Good describes it as, “the cheesecake you must try, even if you don’t like cheesecake”.


Up until recently Papa has solely relied on word of mouth for the success of his business,
after all of these years ever since 1988. It is, therefore, apparent that his product speaks for itself. However, he realises that he may need to start marketing his products due to the revolution of the internet. Although Papa admits that he loves his work and is very proud of what he has achieved thus far, he admits that the hardest part is not spending enough time with his children. Papa believes that this is the only negative and difficult characteristic which comes along with owning a business, “it’s hard when I don’t spend enough time with my family and children because I’m always at work. I’m the first one to start and the last one to go.”

If you are a business owner you are probably nodding your head in agreeance right about now, as many business owners relate to the difficulty which comes with developing a business. Although the benefits are numerous the long hours, risk-taking, problem-solving and numerous sacrifices can sometimes be hard. With a 19-year-old daughter studying at university and a 10-year-old son, Papa contemplates the future and how he would like his work to continue and run in the family, “one day I would like my children to take over and continue with the business because they are very interested in the work. Especially my 10-year-old son, he is always cooking and makes his own birthday cake. He doesn’t like anyone touching his work.”

Papa’s vision and hard work ethic are clearly why he has what many people know it as “the best place for an Italian experience.” He continues to be determined in achieving his vision of delivering high-quality food and service to Australians.

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