Renato was born in Queens, New York, but spent a lot of his childhood on the Italian island of Sicily, known for its traditional Italian cooking, beautiful landscapes and rural traditions. As his whole family was Italian, baking was always a major part of his life, and he spent many a day hanging out in the kitchen, watching his mother prepare delicious meals. Renato had no real training, but after years of observing and tasting, he built up knowledge of cooking and a real love of cakes and pastries.
However, Renato’s love of all things baked took a back seat. After college, he moved to Brooklyn and began working in the world of advertising as a graphic designer. In 2001, he met Matt while they both worked in the same ad agency. After talking, they realised they both shared dreams of working in the culinary world. Matt had always wanted to run a chocolate shop, and Renato had an interest in owning a coffee shop.
It was in 2004 that Renato and Matt decided to make their dreams a reality. After scouting for locations and looking for loans, the two men set up their own bakery and coffee shop in the neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, and thus ‘Baked’ was born. Baked opened its doors in January 2005.
The two men were pleasantly surprised by how well the bakery did in its first few months, but the real turning point came in the summer of 2005, when a certain TV personality called Oprah Winfrey discovered the bakery’s Sweet & Salty Brownie. Oprah decided it was good enough to deserve a place on the prestigious ‘O List’. After this, sales sky-rocketed so much that Renato and Matt thought the internet was broken; so many orders were coming in. Suddenly everyone was talking about Baked and the famous Sweet & Salty Brownie.
Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength. They have started catering for weddings, and have so far written three cookbooks, all of which are available at the Red Hook store and online.
Most recently, Baked was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, in October 2012. As Red Hook is right on the Brooklyn waterfront, all of the local businesses were affected. At Baked, the basement full of inventory was destroyed. However, Renato acknowledges that they were lucky, as many other businesses suffered a lot more damage. After getting power back after four days, Baked became a place for locals to grab a hot coffee, get online and charge their cell phones.
Baked is the perfect example of two men who left the rat race to pursue their dream of opening up a charming local bakery and coffee shop. Check out Baked on our Waterfront Tour to Red Hook – and trust us, once you try their Brownies, no other bakery will ever be good enough!