RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J. — The Bruno Family has baked cakes for Michelle Obama and expanded in size and scope since launching its Italian bakery in Ridgefield Park almost 30 years ago.
Giovanna "Joanne" and Gennaro "Jerry" Bruno run the business, though now with the assistance of their three grown sons.
Their daughter in college also helps on the weekends.
The recipes are still the originals from Jerry Bruno's grandfather in Italy, Joanne Bruno said, adding they bought their initial Ridgefield Park location in 1989 when it was called Cooper's Bakery.
An expansion to Little Ferry with a cafe came in August 2014, after a move to Union City in 2012. They have a retail wholesale operation and online sales for out of state orders.
The Cake Lounge -- a full-service restaurant and lounge in Ridgefield Park -- offers classic Italian cuisine with drink and dessert pairings.
Bruno credits her sons -- one is a lawyer and two studied business -- with the new direction and growth.
"They’re taking it to a whole other level. It’s more of a family business now, not the mom and pop store that it used to be," Bruno said.
The cafe serves artisan pizzas from a wood fire oven, paninis, specialty sandwiches, beer, wine liquor and specialty coffee. Traditional Palermo gourmet desserts, cookies and pastries are also on the menu.
Despite the expansions, cake is where it all began and continues to be the mainstay of Palermo, Bruno said.
"Our custom cakes and wedding cakes made us well known," she said, adding that 90 percent of wedding catering halls in the areas use cakes from Palermo Bakery.
"We've done a lot of celebrity cakes. It’s an honor to be recognized in that way," she said, noting she doesn't know how it all started. "Once it did, it grew. 'The View' has given us many shout-outs."
John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Whoppi Goldberg and Tracey Morgan are just a few of the celebrities Palmero baked a birthday cake for.
It's not the stars that have kept Palermo in business over a quarter of a century, Bruno said, it's good old-fashioned customer service.
"We have good products, but it's our customer service that makes the difference," Bruno said. "Our customers are loyal because we treat them so well."
Keeping a family business running smooth isn't easy Bruno said, but the key ingredient is to remember at the end of the day, they're all related.
"It's important to keep it separate, leave the business at the business. But we all get along. We just came back from a big family vacation in Cancun, Mexico, 11 of us," she said.
Palermo is the capital city of Sicily in Italy.
Palermo Bakery in Little Ferry can be reached at (201) 336-9818.
Ridgefield Park can be reached at (201) 641-0027.
The Cake Lounge can be reached at (201) 336-9819.
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