We visited Porto’s Bakery, the best place to get Cuban food in Los Angeles – Insider – INSIDER

Restaurant News
  • Porto’s Bakery & Cafe is a Cuban-American bakery with five locations across Southern California. Rosa Porto, a Cuban immigrant, opened the bakery in 1976 after years of running an illegal cake business in Cuba when Castro was in power. 

  • Porto’s is famous for their sweet and savory menu items, including the tres leches cakes, Cuban sandwiches, and potato balls.

  • Insider visited Porto’s in February 2020. All Porto’s locations are currently closed for dine-in service due to the ongoing pandemic, but are still offering takeout and delivery options. 

  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Caroline Aghajanian: I have to finish it. There’s a bakery in Los Angeles where you can find some of the tastiest tres leches cakes, sweet and savory pastries, and Cubanos.

Customer: If you’re from LA, you should know about Porto’s.

Customer: You have to get a whole cake. Don’t get a slice, get a whole cake, ’cause if you get one slice you’re gonna have to come back and get another slice and another slice, so get a whole cake.

Caroline: I’m an LA native. I actually grew up, like, two minutes away from this Glendale Porto’s, so coming here is something that’s so normal and routine for me. But this place is more than just a neighborhood favorite. So let’s go see what makes Porto’s one of the most legendary Cuban bakeries in LA. Porto’s Bakery & Cafe was opened in Southern California in 1976 by a woman named Rosa Porto, a Cuban immigrant who started baking and selling cakes from her home. Today, there are five locations across Southern California. We got a glimpse inside the kitchen as the team preps their classic Cuban sandwiches, a must-try here at Porto’s. The team sells about 45,000 Cubanos a month across all locations.

Beatriz Porto: If you haven’t had a Porto’s Cuban sandwich, you don’t know what a Cuban sandwich is supposed to taste like.

Caroline: What’s your favorite part about the Cubano sandwich?

Customer: The pickles, the mustard, the cheese, to meat, it’s, like, slow roasted.

Claudio Brusamolino: All right, so this is our process on preparing the pork legs for roasting. As you can see, we wrap it in fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil, and it’ll be all over. And then we have this dry rub, which is salt and black pepper and brown sugar and dried oregano and a little bit of cumin. So, once they get in the oven, we roast them at a very, very, very low temperature overnight for about nine hours. So that way they, the meat that comes out is very moist, doesn’t get too dry. You have to get ahead of time, get ahead of the game a little bit. So, we premake, like, 10, 20 at a time and then we’ll press them as needed. So, we’re gonna put a little bit, little layer of beautiful butter, and then we’re gonna go with a lightly smoked ham. Next we’re gonna put in some of the pork legs that I showed you before. We’re gonna put a little bit of Swiss cheese.

Caroline: Swiss cheese and pickles?

Claudio: And pickles.

Caroline: Aah.

Claudio: And then on the top part of the bread, we’re gonna put in a little bit of what we call Cuban dressing, which is mayonnaise, mustard, and a little bit of cilantro.

Caroline: Wow. This sandwich is, like, layers of perfection. I feel like every ingredient has a specific purpose. And the bread makes it all perfect. It has, like, a crunch, but it’s also so soft that it doesn’t, like, scrape the top of your mouth. It’s classic. It’s simple. The perfect pairing to any Cubano, or really any sandwich at Porto’s, are the plantain chips. The team goes through 80,000 pounds of fresh green plátanos every month. Once the slices are fried, they’re lightly sprinkled with garlic salt. Ohh! The plantain chips come with their house-made mojo sauce. [crunches] It’s so garlicky. It’s so good. If you’re a garlic lover, the plantain chips are already coated with garlic salt, and with their sauce, it kinda just, like, elevates it to another level. They’re fantastic. And a visit to Porto’s is never complete without an order of…

Customer: Potato balls.

Customer: Potato balls.

Customer: Potato balls.

Producer: Potato balls all day long.

Beatriz: That’s why people drive miles and miles. To get those potato balls. Everywhere that I go, I do shows on it. “Where are the potato balls?” “Did you bring potato balls?” And we wanna introduce new items, but they don’t care about trying new items, but they want their potato balls.

Claudio: So, this is a picadillo that goes inside potato balls, or papas rellenas. It’s ground beef with peppers and onions, lots of garlic, cumin, and a little bit of tomato sauce, a little bit of white wine. Then we let it simmer. And then this is the picadillo that we were just making before, which is now cold. And then we just put it in the middle and fold the potatoes around it. And then it goes into egg wash and then into the bread crumbs.

Caroline: The potato balls are then deep-fried and ready to go. Ooh. OK, here’s the thing. I always eat this really hot, and I feel like I have no patience and I end up burning my mouth, but I don’t care ’cause I keep eating cause it’s so delicious, but here we go again. I have to finish it.

Customer: They’re always warm, and they’re always, like, crispy on the outside and then soft on the inside. So, yeah. They just, like, remind me of kind of, like, home comfort food. So, yeah, they’re really good.

Caroline: Over the years, the team has built on Rosa’s recipes, like her classic tres leches cake. The best seller is the Milk’N Berries cake, which consists of a sponge-cake base soaked with tres leches and filled and topped with whipped cream and fresh berries.

Beatriz: At the beginning it was just tres leches with meringue on top, the original one. And then we gave it whipped cream to make it less sweet for the people who liked the sweet and the less sweet.

Caroline: This is, like, the birthday cake we’d always order. It’s so good. The fruits really do cut into the sweetness.

Producer: Personally, I’ve had every single birthday cake since I was, like, 3 years old from Porto’s. So they mean a lot to me.

Beatriz: So, my mom started this business, really, out of necessity. Back in Cuba under communism, horrible conditions because my dad was taken to a labor camp and she was, you know, let go from her job. And so she did this in order to survive, because there was nothing else she could do. When you applied to leave the country, you immediately became the enemy of the state. So they didn’t care whether you live or not. And it took us eight years to get out. So for eight years, my mother was in charge of keeping us alive. She was the head of the household. My dad, making $8 a month away from the home, really couldn’t support us. You know, necessity is what, many times, makes people do incredible things. Right?

Caroline: Rosa Porto passed away in December 2019, but the Porto family, including Rosa’s three kids, are carrying on the Porto’s Bakery tradition.

Beatriz: The more people talk to you, the more you realize how many people she was able to reach and the legacy that she’s left. Because how many immigrants come to this country and in 40 years get to be a household name? We’re very happy that she gets that kind of recognition, in her community that she did so much for. Its a good thing, for all of us. We’re very proud.

Source: Thanks https://www.insider.com/portos-bakery-cafe-best-cuban-bakery-los-angeles-2020-2