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East Bay bakery makes a sweet transition

Locally Baked

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When Baked hit the scene in 2008, foodies raved about the bakery's sunny, stylish decor and Oprah-approved brownies. The spot has undergone major changes since then, but some things — like the sweet and salty brownies, cupcakes, and whoopie pies — aren't going anywhere.

Tracy and Richard Ditizio took over operations of Baked in July. Original owners Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, whose flagship store is in Brooklyn, were finding it difficult to run the store from New York while they were so busy building their brand and embarking on the book tour for Baked: New Frontiers and Baked Explorations.

Meanwhile, the Ditizios were looking to relocate to Charleston from Florida, where Tracy ran a cake business. Although Baked wasn't advertised as being for sale, their business broker put in an inquiry and found the Brooklynites to be receptive. Tracy, who studied pastry arts at the Florida Culinary School, runs the main operations, and Richard is a banker. Their son attends the University of South Carolina.

While the recipes, the branding, and most of the outdoorsy decor remain the same (although they brightened up the dark "library room"), the new owners have made some subtle changes and plan to make even more. For one, they switched their coffee provider from Portland-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters to Charleston Coffee Roasters. They visited the warehouse and created their own signature blend of coffee, which they sell by the cup or by the bag. They also offer loose-leaf teas and seasonal drinks. On a recent blustery day, the sidewalk menu board boasted Nutella hot cocoa, caramel apple cider, spicy spiked mocha, and sweet and salty hot chocolate.

"We're also trying to build up the wedding cake business and sandwich business," Ditizio says. The sandwich selection changes often, but if you get a chance to try their BLT with garlic aioli sauce, don't pass it up.

But the reason we keep going back to Baked is for the sweets. The shop employs five pastry chefs who constantly churn out fresh-from-the-oven confections. There are the gooey aforementioned brownies, the sweetly decorated cupcakes, and the moist whoopie pies. There are dessert bars (sticky S'more Nut, gooey Grasshopper, and crunchy PB Krispy), and big, fat cookies — chocolate chunk is their best-seller. On a recent visit, we even found a plate of caramel apples in the window.

"We offer the same things, but we want to change it up a little bit," Ditizio says. "We're experimenting and adding more things to the case every day."

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