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Enjoy the sweet smell of success at Rudy’s in Ridgewood

By Tom Momberg

Take a peek through the front window of Rudy’s Bakery and Café into what looks like a 19th-century German neighborhood “Bäckerei,” and be taken back through time.

Having surpassed 80 years in business, old world recipes for Black Forest cake, streusel, turnovers and Danishes are the same today as when the Ridgewood bakery first opened in 1934.

That’s exactly the kind of look, feel and taste that owner and baker Toni Binanti has tried to maintain over the years, even as the business grew to further serve the community as a neighborhood bakery. Now a café with seating , it’s somewhat of a local hangout.

Whether out for a quick breakfast sandwich, a romantic date for some espresso and biscotti or special ordering a cake or treats for a special event, Binanti said she caters to everyone.

“You could come in here with your grandma or your great-great-grandchildren, and there’s something in here for everyone to like,” she said. “I have people that have been coming in here for literally 80 years, and they have embraced the change.”

That change, brought in part by the bakery’s pastry chef, only serves to reach a community as diverse and as connected as Ridgewood, mixing in some modern with the traditional.

Pastry chef Christina Nastasi grew up working part time in the bakery.

After studying at the French Culinary Institute and working at several restaurants and bakeries throughout the city, Nastasi returned to her roots in Ridgewood.

“Manhattan was great, but I felt like I needed to come back and show people where I’m from and what I’ve been doing, Binanti said.

Over the past four years at Rudy’s, Nastasi has introduced items that Queens residents might otherwise have to trek into Manhattan to get: Cannolis, cheesecakes, pies, pastries, specialty cookies, tarts, handmade chocolates and gelato as well as gluten-free and vegan treats.

Even amid everything new, Rudy’s is like a little neighborhood bakery you would find in small-town Europe, and has a similar purpose.

“I think people move to Ridgewood, because they want to live in a community. It definitely has that kind of feel,” Binanti said. “When you walk down the street, it’s the kind of neighborhood where people say hi to you. At that point, you know you’re in Queens.”

Rudy’s, in Binanti’s family since 1980, was left to her after her late uncle Ralph DiFonzo became ill.

He instilled in her that passion and drive required of a baker, which she said is why her customers see her all the time.

“My uncle always said, if you do it right and you do what you love, then you’ll never work a day in your life,” Binanti said.

Rudy’s, located at 905 Seneca Ave., is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260-4573.

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