DOWNEY - When exiting the two-story parking garage and walking past the five-foot-long, trickling water fountain, the animated sound of modern rumba music is unmistakable.The soft, jazzy Cuban music is one of the first clues that the new, highly-anticipated 15,000-square-foot Porto's Bakery & Café, located at 8233 Firestone Blvd., is almost near completion. Enveloped with numerous construction workers, the clinking and clanking of metal machinery is subtle, yet evident as the busy crews prep for the restaurant's upcoming grand opening. Once inside, the sparkling new facility's modern design elements provide an elegant backdrop for the alluring aroma of warm, baked bread, fresh out of the oven. With black trays in hand, an efficient fleet of young workers serve an array of delicious treats ranging from ham and cheese croissants and cubano sandwiches to chicken empanadas and coconut macaroons. "We make fresh bread four times a day. So whenever you come in and order something, the bread just came out of the oven," said Betty Porto during a pre-opening luncheon last week. "Our soups are made from scratch, our pastries - everything is made from scratch. And the prices don't match the quality…It's very little compared to the quality you get here." Consequently, the Porto family hopes the community turns out next week when the thriving family business officially opens its third Porto's Bakery & Café after a special ribbon-cutting ceremony this Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. "We open this Tuesday and we're supper excited," said Porto, vice-president in charge of community relations. "This store will offer exactly the same items - our drinks, sandwiches and desserts. We have 130 employees right now, but that number will grow as we grow." Originally slated for completion in May, the new restaurant will open more than two years after Betty's brother, Raul, met then-mayor, now Councilman Mario Guerra and former councilman Kirk Cartozian at an Orangeline meeting in Glendale. "Kirk Cartozian and I were at a meeting in Glendale at Porto's when Raul Porto walked up," said Guerra. "I asked him, "Have you ever considered coming to Downey?" and I gave him my card…A few months later, the Porto family invested over $14 million in Downey." Guerra maintains that once Porto's Bakery opens, the downtown district will start to transform as new consumers begin flooding the area, investing in other local businesses in Downey. "I told everyone that this was going to change the downtown…Two thousand people a day," said Guerra. "Look around, we're getting ready to have five new restaurants across the street…Porto's is the foundation of the downtown specific plan. It's expanding business, creating synergy and providing more jobs and revenue for our city." Similarly, Councilman Roger Brossmer lauded the new facility and the Porto family who he praised for already giving back to the community's schools and non-profit organizations. "They have a great track record," he said. "They are great community people with a record of working with the community they're in." Betty Porto echoed their sentiments, assuring residents that Porto's is more than a business chain. "We don't come to a city just to do business, we come for the community," she said. "Twenty percent of our Glendale clients are from Downey. They would ask, "When are you coming?" Our customers are the main reason we are here. We are not a chain; we're a family restaurant - even our employees. They're part of our family." For Raul Porto, the new bakery was a labor of love and a unique venture in a new downtown area full of potential. "It's been a long process, over two years," he said folding his arms. "We've poured our heart into every detail and thought out everything." Inside, the restaurant features high-end appliances, many hand-picked by the Porto family and purchased from around the world. On several counters, state-of-the-art computer monitors allow customers to scroll through Porto's menu while European ovens, lights, and display cases can be found around the restaurant. "Look at this bread," said Porto, holding up a large sourdough loaf. "Now look at it under the light. What do you see? It brings out the color in the bread. In Germany, this type of lighting is standard in all bakeries." While many critics think the new restaurant will stunt the growth of other local bakeries and Cuban eateries, Porto believes the opposite. "Competition doesn't kill anybody," he said. "Our presence will push everyone to bring their level up. We're going to improve, they're going to improve and everybody benefits." According to Porto's website, the store will open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Sunday hours will be 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
********** Published: November 4, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 29