By Phil Corso
Stepping into Rudy’s Bakery and Café in Ridgewood is a lot like stepping into a time machine.
The smell of freshly baked goods and coffee is followed by a quick greeting from the staff. The classic café layout and old-fashioned decor are topped off by the giant letter R in the middle of the floor. Decades-old photos of its storefront line the wall and tell the story of a community staple over the past 80 years.
But while some things at Rudy’s might never change, its offerings have evolved to better serve Ridgewood’s changing clientele and maintain a strong presence in the community.
“This place is a hidden gem in Ridgewood,” said pastry chef Cristina Nastasi. “People love the old-fashioned feel and all the history. But we are still in transition.”
That transition, she said, included an all-new gluten-free and vegan-friendly display of desserts and more, as per the community’s request.
Nastasi has been affiliated with the Ridgewood bakery for the better part of the last decade, working first as a sales assistant before going off to study at the French Culinary Institute. After working in several prominent restaurants throughout the city, she returned to help revamp Rudy’s while staying true to its classic bakery feel.
“We really raised the bar,” she said. “And we did it with our hearts.”
Since her return, she and bakery owner Toni Binanti have expanded the shop, pushing its kitchen further back to make way for a brand-new café seating area. They also arranged an array of events, including parties, book signings and dessert tastings.
“We are always wanting to do better for Ridgewood,” Binanti said. “There are no other places like this around here.”
Over the many decades of Rudy’s in Ridgewood, Nastasi said the community landscape has changed somewhat drastically from an old-fashioned German feel to a more youth-infused neighborhood.
And along with that dynamic change, she said, came a new menu that offered things Rudy’s had yet to serve while maintaining its reputation as a go-to shop for croissants, danishes, muffins and more.
“It’s the best of the old and the new,” Nastasi said. “We still have classic Rudy’s.”
Binanti took over the family business from her late uncle Ralph DiFonzo, who was in charge for decades. It was her uncle who taught her everything she knew about the baking business, and it was his dream that she said motivated her to keep Rudy’s relevant in Ridgewood.
Rudy’s is at 905 Seneca Ave. in Ridgewood and is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 718-821-5890 or visit rudysbakeryandcafe.com.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.