When the first Covid restrictions were imposed, they hit everyone differently. Some people noticed the lack of a commute the most. Some, the constant presence of kids home from school. Veronica Herico (call her Vero) noticed the bread. It was terrible. The small bakeries had been shut down, and Big Bread was churning out little besides high-sugar garbage. Luckily for Sonoma County residents, Vero was uniquely qualified to actually do something about it.
Vero, brought up in Petaluma, had burned out of her Bay Area corporate job in 2017, and backpacked around the world, hoping to find some way to make a life out of her passion for food. “I had this one-track thinking,” she says, “that I had to be a chef if I wanted to work in food.” A stint working at an ancient farm in Italy had changed that. “It opened my mind to all of the different places you can be involved.” Vero returned to Sonoma and allowed her general love of food to turn into an obsession with bread. She honed her skills at the Artisan Baking Center under bread heavyweights like Craig Ponsford.
Then Covid hit, her freelance gig disappeared, the good bread vanished from store shelves, and Vero made a decision. “I was just sitting there with this skill set, not doing anything. Why not just try a pop-up?” She told a few friends, baked a few loaves… and things ignited. Now, Vero bakes from Thursday to Saturday every other week. Every loaf and pastry is baked to order from a list of classics and new favourites.
Vero’s passion for bread gives her a unique perspective on something that a lot of people don’t pay much attention to. “Bread,” she muses, “has been a cornerstone of human civilization for millennia. It’s not just dinner rolls.” That’s why Vero shies away from the over-sugared plain white breads so common in the grocery store. “Whatever we offer gives you nutrients. It’s not just empty carbs or a hit of sugar.” No. It’s whole grains. Organic flours. Ancient grains. Spelt. Durum. Vero interrupts herself. “I’m a firm believer that healthy food doesn’t have to be gross. It can absolutely be indulgent and delicious. You know, droolworthy.”
Vero’s enthusiasm is contagious. When we asked her to name a single great starting point for a first-time customer, she said she could narrow it down to two. One savory and one sweet. Then she gave us four options, and laughed. (For the record: Bavarian Pretzels, Focaccia, “Magno” Morning Buns, and Bear Claws.)
Pane di Vero is expanding, but Vero never wants to sacrifice quality for quantity. She just took delivery of a new commercial baking oven, but it’s in her garage – and serves partly to get her operation out of the family’s overtaxed home kitchen. In the future, she wants to deepen her relationships with other local producers (she has high regard for Sonoma’s food makers, who she says are animated by a shared love of quality) and, if the demand is there, she’ll consider baking bigger batches. For now, though, you’re going to need to follow Pane di Vero on Instagram for your cue to place your order. Ordering is only open for three days every two weeks, so don’t dilly dally.
- Restaurant: Green String Farm, “They have a farm stand and they sell these beautiful seasonal vegetables and fruit”
- Wine: Banshee, Everything
- Activity: Outdoor Activities, “I just love being outside and being active, so yoga, or hiking, or biking. We have amazing options for all of that here in Sonoma”