New York Bakery keeps customers coming back

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At the family-run New York Bakery in El Cajon, business has always been a delicious matter with Santo DiGrigoli manning the kitchen. When the bakery closed its doors a couple of years ago to reorganize the business, their loyal customers hoped for the best. On June 14, 2014, the bakery finally reopened.

At the family-run New York Bakery in El Cajon, business has always been a delicious matter with Santo DiGrigoli manning the kitchen. When the bakery closed its doors a couple of years ago to reorganize the business, their loyal customers hoped for the best. On June 14, 2014, the bakery finally reopened.

With his own hands, DiGrigoli built the bakery in 2007. “I know what I put in here. When we closed up shop two years ago, the landlord did not want to lease it to anybody else. He made an offer to me that I couldn’t refuse,” he said.

All of the bakery’s regular customers are back. “Even when it’s hot outside like today,” he said.  

“We’ve kept the recipes the same. But I’m not the owner anymore. I just consult my son and grandson on the business. They are the owners now,” he said.

DiGrigoli sat down out on the patio to chat with Debra Childers, one of his newest loyal customers.

“But you’re here every day. You never take a day off,” said Childers.  

“Not true. Two weeks ago, I took a week off,” he teased.

The bakery is like a home to DiGrigoli just as much as it is for the customers who drop in for coffee and a pastry, breakfast or lunch. Customers such as the priest from the Anglican Church in Alpine come for the good vibes and friendships as much as for the food.  

DiGrigoli brings decades of experience to the bakery. “I’ve been in business in San Diego for 45 years,” he said.

He built the building in 2007. “I know what I put in here. When we closed up shop two years ago, the landlord did not want to lease it t anybody else. He made an offer to me that I couldn’t refuse,” 

Using a wood burning oven and mixing dough with his hands are some of the ways that DiGrigoli is in keeping with his old country methods of baking. 

“We are a unique bakery. We use no chemicals. The baked goods of most other bakery are too sweet. My motto here is that if I don’t eat it, I don’t sell it,” said DiGrigoli, whose favorite pastry is his homemade cannoli. 

Childers said that her favorite sweet was the cassata cake. Her favorite sandwich is the Caprese with Prosciutto; her favorite entrée is spiedini, which is a sliced meet filled with cheese, bread crumbs, tomato sauce, raisins and peanuts, “and filled with love,” she said. 

The seminola bread alone will keep Childers coming back. 

“You’ve got to try it. You’re going to get hooked and you’re going to have to work out the next morning,” she said. 

On the walls of the dining area are signed photographs of famous actors and actresses, such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Dolly Parton and Roy Rogers. “These are from my days working in Las Vegas,” DiGrigoli said.

When he was in Las Vegas, DiGrigoli was a regular on the Louis Prima Show. “It always opened with the music of “Mala Femmina—that means bad woman in Italian,” DiGrigoli said, grinning.

“I was filmed as I made pastries using the old-fashioned way. People would copy what I was doing,” he said.

Even with all the show business, DiGrigoli kept a level head. He has always been generous, giving leftovers and day-old baked goods to the homeless and hungry. When he ran the New York Bakery in Hillcrest and North Park in the 70s, he began a regular habit of donating food to Father Joe’s and the San Diego Rescue Mission.

These days, when people come in to ask for free food, he refers them to churches. DiGrigoli also makes gives donations of food to churches, including the Rock Church East County Feeding the Flock Ministry. 

“We’ve come to pick up bread, pastry, cakes, and once we even picked up 6-foot sandwiches,” said Childers, who heads up Feeding the Flock Ministry.

“Yes, the sandwiches were hanging out the truck window, like a surf board,” DiGrigoli said, laughing along with Childers.

Still, DiGrigoli has a heart for people who are hungry. On March 19, St. Joseph’s Day. He fed all of the homeless people who came. For three hours, his free meal of sandwich, soup, fruit and milk kept the lien going.

“We had a full line all the way to the park,” he said. 

But it’s business as usual at the bakery most other times. An outdoor patio has been added to the space, perfect for the live music by Italian singers Gaetano Rallo and Luis every Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m.

“And I join in with the singing,” DiGrigoli said.

New York Bakery is located at 245 E. Main Street in El Cajon. The phone number is 619-334-3682.