Panciuto is open again in downtown Hillsborough, and it now includes the Hillsborough Bakeshop.

Hillsborough celebrates as Panciuto reopens their big red doors. Still focused on people, farmers, and friends, Panciuto Volume II brings a fresh flavor to their business concept. 

“The pandemic closed the book on the restaurant we were, but it gave us the opportunity to re-imagine the restaurant we want to be from this point forward,” said Chef and Owner Aaron Vandemark. “Our approach to cooking is unchanged. We will always prepare creative and thoughtful meals made from food sourced entirely from nearby farms. What’s different is that we are providing a more independent dining experience for our guests.” 

Using a less-is-more service model, Vandemark and his staff aim to enhance the dining experience. “Through technology, we are streamlining communication and the ordering process so that our staff can focus more on smart hospitality and less on the inefficient movement of information throughout the restaurant. While we are cooking and quietly attending to your needs, our tableside engagement will be limited in favor of uninterrupted time for you and your friends,” explained Vandemark. 

Freshly painted lettering above the black-trimmed windows reveals another exciting change to the Panciuto space. The newest addition to the neighborhood bakery scene, Hillsborough Bakeshop serves freshly prepared pastries, tarts, cookies, and sandwiches. A concept meant to be a short-term solution during the pandemic has since turned into a new venture for Vandemark and lead baker Adrianna Carreon. 

“With the shutdown orders last year, like everyone else in food service, we were forced to rethink our work in order to keep our full-time staff employed,” explained Vandemark. “Dining at Panciuto has always been much more than the food, so shifting to a takeout model wasn’t going to work for us. We looked at this challenge as an opportunity, and Hillsborough Bakeshop was born out of it.” 

Partnering with local vendors such as Aromatic Rosters and Piedmont Wine Imports, the Hillsborough Bakeshop, like Panciuto, focuses on local collaboration. 

Vandemark has also taken a leading step to equalize pay in the food industry and provide a fair wage to his employees. Orange County Living Wage Certified, Panciuto and Hillsborough Bakeshop employees are paid a minimum of $15.40 per hour, creating an even playing field between the dining room and kitchen staff. “We no longer accept tips,” explained Vandemark. “We’ve been moving towards this for the last few years, and it’s time to rip off the band-aid.” In place of gratuity, an 18% fair wage tax will be placed on all sales. “Your decision to eat at Hillsborough Bakeshop and Panciuto create good jobs in an industry where there are far too few. By paying our staff well and buying from small family farms in our community, your dollars stay here and keep our local economy healthy.” Other Hillsborough businesses such as Weaver Street Market and Hillsborough Wine Company are also certified living wage employers.

Although Vandemark is the face to both Panciuto and Hillsborough Bakeshop, he gives credit to those around him for being the driving force in the restaurants’ success. 

“I am only as successful as the team I put together, and the regional acclaim Panciuto has received over the years is in large part a direct result of the many people who have worked their tails off on my behalf.” 

The Hillsborough Bakeshop is open Thursday through Saturday from 8:30 am until 2 pm. Panciuto is open Thursday through Saturday from 5 pm until 8:30 pm.