By Michele J. Kuhn
RED BANK – Just walk through the door at 86 Broad St. and immediately you are enveloped by the scents of sugar, cake, chocolate and pastries – all mixed with what may just be the sweet smell of success.
If the crowds that gathered on the sidewalk in the cold an hour before the grand opening of Carlo’s Bakery are any indication, the shop definitely will be a go-to destination in the borough. Fans of “Cake Boss,” the TLC Network show starring Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Jr., lined the sidewalk – four to five people deep – all the way down to St. James R.C. Church just before the shop opened at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25.
Valastro said his goal for the shop is for area residents to think of it as their neighborhood bakery where they will be getting baked good and cakes for all occasions – “all the way from their christening to their weddings and beyond.”
While many people think of Carlo’s for their extravagant creations that are made for organizations and have many moving parts, Valastro stressed that people can come to the bakery “and get half a sheet cake for under $100.”
Locating a shop in Red Bank seemed a natural for the Valastro family, many of whom were on hand for the opening.
“I thought we’d be a great fit here. It’s a lot of fun to be here,” he said.
“We had a condo growing up in the Highlands and we now have one in Long Branch. This is our Jersey Shore. This is where we come. I grew up fishing in Sandy Hook all my life.
“We were familiar with the downtown in this area and I feel like it’s one of those hidden gems in New Jersey. It’s got a great vibe. When we thought of expanding, when I thought of ‘down the shore,’ this is my ‘down the shore’ …It’s great to be here.”
Among those waiting for the shop to open was Rumson resident Elise Pritchard who pulled her children out of school 15 minutes early and brought three of their friends to the opening. “They were so excited,” she said. “This is a big deal for Red Bank and we wanted to be here.”
Also waiting in line, along with a large contingent of Red Bank Catholic High School students, was Brenda O’Neill of Jackson. She has already made trips to Carlo’s flagship store in Hoboken and its outlet in Times Square. O’Neill snagged the red ribbon used to formally open the shop.
“I’m here because I want to order 100 cupcakes for my daughter’s sweet 16 party,” she said.
The bakery features large glass cases of baked goods, an open kitchen where customers can watch bakers working and decorating cakes, a party room where events such as birthday parties or showers can be held and will soon have tables where customers can sit while having some coffee and eating a sweet treat.
In the future, Carlo’s is looking to hold classes in such areas as cake decorating and might feature a kids club during which youngsters can come in once a month and make something special.
“We try to do things the old-fashioned way,” Valastro said.” I’m trying to bring that Old World bakery vibe back to Main Street, America.”
One of the hallmarks of the operation and the television shows is the Valastro family, referred to as “La Famiglia.” Among those at the opening of the Red Bank shop were Buddy’s mother Mary, his wife Lisa and sisters, Lisa Valastro, Maddalena Castano, Grace Faugno and Mary Sciarrone, all familiar to the crowd through their appearances in “Cake Boss” and the three other shows that have featured the bakery.
“Family is the most important thing to me,” Valastro said. “The show is viewed in 220 countries all over the world by more than 1.5 billion people. I have four books out …a restaurant in Las Vegas, but the thing out of all my success that I am most proud about is my family … We work together as a family and we work together well.
“I know my show brings families together,” he said. “I think that the cake decorating aspect of it … If you do it with your children, you will leave a lasting memory.”
Among those with a lasting memory of Carlo’s opening is Bruno Battaglia, a 13-year-old from Millstone, who helped cut the ribbon with Valastro and Mayor Pasquale Menna. A big fan of the show – “I like the comedy, my mom likes the baking” – Bruno, accompanied by his twin sister Bianca, was representing the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Valastro said he expects to be in the Red Bank store, particularly “during the beginning,” and then will be making unannounced spot-checks to ensure that things are running correctly.