But Porto’s isn’t just a bakery. It is the destination for Cuban cuisine.
“The thought never crosses your mind that you will be rewarded for doing what you love. Every day you go to work and you do what you have to do to make a living, and it also happens to be something you enjoy and feel very proud of. But to receive recognition is truly a surprise, but also something very special,” said Beatriz.
Today, Beatriz and her sister Margarita who own and manage Porto’s Bakery and Café in Burbank, California received another accolade.
The California Latino Legislative Caucus recognized the third-generation family business as one of their 2016 Latino Spirit Award honorees in Achievement in Business and Philanthropy. At a special awards ceremony held on both the Assembly and Senate floors, the distinction marks the 15th annual celebration of exemplary Latinos from all walks of life in California.
The recognition came as a shock to the Porto family, who just a few weeks ago received an unexpected fury of media inquiries from newspaper publications to television networks across the country wanting to know what has been the recipe for their success.
“There is no secret. Doing what you love to do each day is hardly a secret,” said Beatriz.
A few weeks ago, Beatriz’s nephew shared the exciting ‘Yelp’ news via a ‘Google’ alert he had received in his e-mail. In it, it congratulated Porto’s Bakery and Café for topping its list of best restaurants.
“He came in very excited and said, they (our customers) ranked us at No. 1. We were so excited, and felt truly humbled to have earned that recognition,” said Beatriz.
At the State Capitol on Monday (May 2), the Porto sisters shared their entrepreneurial journey which first began with their parents Raúl and Rosa Porto.
It was in the 1960’s when the couple made the tough decision to leave their home in Manzanillo, Cuba for a chance at making the American Dream a reality.
They settled in California with a few dimes in their pocket. Having escaped a communist political regime, the Porto’s wanted to make something of themselves in the United States and create a life for their children that would provide them with better opportunities for success.
Rosa, who was known to make the most delicious cakes and pastries in her native Cuba, decided to bring with her, not just her hopes and dreams for a better life, but many of the traditional recipes of Cuban cuisine that have been passed down generation to generation in the Porto family.
In Echo Park, Rosa began selling her pastries and other delicatessen to family friends and neighbors as a way to support her family. It didn’t take long before the word on the street was that Rosa was one of the finest — if not the absolute best — pastry maker in the area. Recognizing her natural talent, the growing demand for her pastries and her growing popularity among old and newer clients, the Porto’s made the decision to open a small 300-square foot facility in the 1990’s in their community.
Wind down 40 years later and the Porto’s now own three locals in Burbank, Glendale and Downey. As the children of Raúl Sr. and Rosa— Beatriz, Raúl Jr. and Margarita joined the family business and helped expand the original location in Echo Park to a 20,000 square-foot facility in the late 1990’s.
Success quickly followed.
Beatriz attributes Porto’s growth and popularity to three simple things: make great food, sell it at an affordable price and serve it with a lot of love and affection.
“There are no prejudices against good food, and good food knows no boundaries,” said Beatriz.
Nestled throughout the Southern California region, the diverse Latino community has fully embraced all of the Porto’s authentic Cuban cuisine that is served each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But it’s not only Latinos who enjoy their cuisine — which makes up only 40 percent of their customers — the rest is a mix of people from different ethnic backgrounds.
Porto’s prepares and serves well over 150 products including some of their customers’ favorites including empanadas, croquetas, potato balls, pastel de carne (meat pie) rellenitos, and a vast assortment of pastries like galletas, strudels, brioches, pies, croissants; fresh breads and cakes including fruit tarts, mousses, custards and cheesecake. Porto’s also offers a gourmet coffee bar.
With hundreds of employees, the Porto sisters say their biggest challenge throughout the last 40 years has been ensuring that their employees are happy.
“As the business grows, it becomes harder to maintain because more employees means more stories we have to understand and that means, we are forced to be better and more efficient. We also have to ensure that our employees are doing a good job because without them, we can’t do our job,” said Margarita.
Keeping their parents’ business alive has been no easy task either.
“With the changing times, we have been evolving and we are always looking toward the future exploring ways on how we want to grow and continue serving the products and the foods that people love so much in our community. The most important part of that growth is making sure our products stay delicious,” said Beatriz.
Aside from being successful entrepreneurs, the Porto’s also give back to their community through their philanthropic and community investment efforts. They have a partnership with the Los Ángeles homeless charity and the Union Rescue Mission where they donate meals to those most in need. They also provide scholarships to local culinary students and make generous donations to health organizations that assist the Latino community.
Porto’s Bakery and Café serves thousands of customers and employs hundreds of team members in Southern California, with stores in Glendale, Burbank, and Downey with two additional stores being built in Buena Park and West Covina.
The Porto sisters and their brother Raúl Jr. all have sons and daughters who are attending universities and culinary schools and have grown to understand, appreciate and love the family business and will likely play a larger role in the forthcoming future.
“It is our hope to keep this business thriving. I think our children will continue the legacy and it is our hope that they do,” said Beatriz.
Having received the Latino Spirit Award has been a highlight for the Porto family.
“When you work your whole life, you never know what you will receive. We are immigrants at the end of the day and we worked our way up like all immigrants. When you work hard, beautiful things start to happen without you expecting them and when they happen, it is an absolutely amazing feeling,” said Beatriz.
Contact the Reporter: