Panificio Navona is a cafe and bakery that occupies a sleek space in Newtown with an open and eye-catching design, and many vintage cameras decorating the room. That’s no coincidence. Owner Frank Navone is a high-end commercial photographer who has worked with companies such as Pepsi and Macy’s. The attention to detail he developed as a photographer has served him well in his second profession, he says.
“I’m trained to see detail in my photography business and I have to be able to repeat for any client that has a line extension of any type of a product,” Navone says. “You train yourself to be able to do that and that’s pretty much what baking is. You do something, you find out what you do like about it or don’t like about it.” Then you figure out how to reproduce what worked.
He adds, “I try to make things that look like they’re made by hand and not stamped out of a machine. I do believe that the bigger the mix, the more you’re trying to serve, the less quality.”
Panificio Navona opened in Newtown last May but had operated for about six years prior to that at a location in neighboring Bethel. Navone’s grandfather and great-grandfather were both bakers. Though the business was in Navone’s blood, it wasn’t until the recession hit in the late 2000s and his photography business slowed that he decided to pursue baking as a new career. In Bethel, he operated the bakery in a corporate park. The front of the space served as the bakery, and the back was his photography studio. He moved the business to Newtown when he decided to commit 100 percent to the bakery. We’re glad he made the leap.
Today the bakery and cafe lives up to the premise of both descriptors. It offers an assortment of baked goods worth traveling for that are perfectly balanced between sweet and savory flavors. The biscotti are on the softer side and delectable, avoiding the stale-tasting crunch too often found in the pastry. Other standouts include the almond scones, the cinnamon-nutmeg doughnut, croissants, cookies and, when available, Italian bread. There are also cakes, of which the carrot is the customer favorite.
On the cafe side of the business, breakfast and lunch is offered, with a variety of salads, sandwiches, pizzas and breakfast standbys featured. During a breakfast visit, the French toast ($11.75) and the Italian potato wrap ($9.35), with scrambled eggs, twice-baked potato, sour cream, cheese and mango salsa, hit the spot.
32 Church Hill Road, Newtown
Hours: Tue.-Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Mon.