At the time, Ridgewood was populated mostly with German immigrants, many of whom came from Gottscheer, a region of Slovenia comprised of Germans who migrated to New York after World War I.
Eight decades later, Rudy’s menu still features some old-fashioned classic German recipes, including jelly donuts, linzer tarts, blackforest cake, strudel and danishes, which were offered at 80 cents a piece at the bakery’s 80th anniversary celebration last Saturday.
Owner Antoinette “Toni” Binanti, whose family bought the shop in 1980, believes that embracing the shop’s cultural history is important.
“We love our customers and we’re happy to provide them with the baked goods that they remember from childhood,” Binanti said.
With a rich history and decades worth of dedicated customers, it would be easy for Rudy’s to remain a classic German bakery. But Binanti and Rudy’s pastry chef, Cristina Nastasi, have also adopted the new, making the bakery a go-to place for anything from bienenstich to oatmeal marshmallow sandwiches.
“We complement each other,” Binanti said. “I have the old and she’s got the new.”
The bakery itself shows its history in its architecture, with two distinct sections housing first the original bakery, which leads into an addition that makes up a new, bright café with free wi-fi, chairs and tables, and a gelato bar.
Celebrating the old and the new from the last 80 years, Rudy’s invited everyone in during the Seneca Avenue Street Stroll last Saturday, where local shops and residents closed down the street with a German band, free food tastings and cultural dancing from the neighboring Nepalese restaurant.
Binanti worked with the executive director of the Myrtle Avenue BID, Ted Renz, to pull together the entire event in two short weeks.
“This is what we wanted, but we didn’t think we could pull it off” Binanti said. “Everybody came out.
“The Nepalese, they really came out,” she added. “They volunteered. They said, ‘We’ll get you as many dances as you want.’ They were so thankful and so appreciative. It just showed me why I love Ridgewood so much, and why I love what I do.”
Binanti said she could not have asked for more out of the day, with perfect weather and a big turnout.
“I wanted to make it a community event,” she said. “I’ve been here for so many years, and I was overwhelmed with joy. I have customers who have always supported me.”
One of those supporters was Carol Bronnenkant, a Ridgewood resident who has been going to the bakery for over 30 years.
“I’m in here all of the time,” she said. “I come after church, I come on Saturdays. It’s wonderful.”
When asked why she frequents Rudy’s instead of any of the other number of bakeries in the area, Bronnenkant said it is because “Rudy’s is the best.”
“I love the service, I love the people,” she said. “I just love the whole ambience, everything. They give back a lot to the community. They’re wonderful, so I like to always support them.”
Bronnenkant was joined by longtime friend, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who said that Binanti’s family took over Rudy’s around the same time that she was elected, giving the two women a special bond.
“Toni has worked hard to keep this well-known bakery successful,” Nolan said. “It is so important to our community to have strong local businesses like Rudy’s.”
The strength of the bakery is apparent in the number of customers who came out on Saturday — ones who have been going for years and brand new customers who promised to come back.
Binanti collected stories from people at the celebration, many of whom had families who had been frequenting the bakery for generations.
“I got so many stories,” she said. “The bakery did my wedding cake. The bakery did my son’s first birthday cake, and the son is now 50 years old.
“I had people who came in with three or four generations, saying, ‘Oma took us here when we were little and now we’re taking our grandchildren here,’” she said.