“It’s nice to have a changing neighborhood, but with places that are still the same,” said customer Mariel Wagner. “It’s refreshing.”
Rudy’s, which opened on 905 Seneca Avenue in 1934, is Ridgewood’s oldest German bakery.
Purchased by the late Ralph Difonzo in 1980, the bakery is known for its traditional cakes, danishes, butter cookies and other goodies that Difonzo and his niece and current owner, Antonetta “Toni” Binanti, baked for many years.
Rudy’s has added a modern lineup of baked goods created by salesgirl-turned-main baker Cristina Nastasi, who worked there periodically for ten years.
“I told Toni, ‘Everything is great, but you need to start making stuff that’s going to compliment your cafe now,’" said Nastasi, who graduated from the French Culinary Institute in 2003.
Since permanently returning last year, Nastasi has added cake pops, puddings, cake and pie slices, specialty cupcakes, gluten-free items and much more to the menu.
The Oreo Cupcake tastes just like its namesake, from its light, creamy frosting to its fluffy chocolate cake.
Nastasi’s performance has been positively affected by her fond feelings.
"I come in everyday and I feel like I’m home, so I’m happy,” she said. “When you’re happy inside, it shows in your work."
Rudy’s also serves 12 rotating flavors of gelato and sherbet and beverages like iced coffee, milkshakes and fruit smoothies.
Walking into Rudy’s, customers can still hear a bell ring as they enter and see the familiar blue awning and displayed pastries and chocolate candy.
The prep area-turned-café in the back has red walls with artwork and the saying “Love, laugh, live for dessert.”
The bakery’s history was maintained through its unchanged wood floors and two parallel bricks walls. This was as important as keeping Difonzo’s memory present in all they do.
"My uncle knew that Cristina was going to become a baker, and the day she came back to us, I knew she came here for a reason," said an emotional Binanti. "These are the warm memories we have here.”
Rudy's is still a community-driven business that helps feed the homeless, sponsors charitable events and donates to food pantries.
Binanti has become acquainted with two and sometimes three generations of families living in Ridgewood, and the staff has memorized the orders of their regulars.
"We see a customer walk through the door, and we already know what they’re going to buy," said Binanti.
Connie Licata, a customer of 30 years, can attest to this familiarity. "It's been in the neighborhood so long, that it's like part of my family," she said.
While enjoying the new pastry selection, customers have also maintained their appreciation of Rudy’s traditional treats.
“Rudy’s is the best bakery in Queens,” said Richard Ehrhart. “They’re one of the few left with German goods.”