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After 30 Years, Porto’s Bakery Is Bringing Back the Family’s Original Whole Guava Pie That Started It All

11:22 AM PDT on May 7, 2021

    he smell of guava penetrating through the house, it’s fantastic!”

    Raul Porto, son of the powerhouse matriarch behind Porto’s Bakery, can almost taste the beloved tropical fruit as he describes it during the interview. His description brings to mind the smell of butter and flour slowly toasting when baking at home, a market that his family’s Cuban L.A. bakery empire hopes to break into with the revival of their whole guava pie.  

    Bake at Home is Porto’s line of freshly baked goods that you can finish baking in the oven at home. As if Los Angeles’s diverse pastry-loving communities needed another reason to line up for their high-quality baked goods.    

    The pie is said to be a true representation of who Rosa, Raul’s mother, was and reflects how far she came in life. Almost 60 years ago, from her home in Cuba, where her love for baking first began, to owning multiple bakeries in Los Angeles, the pie represents the family's humble beginnings, traditions, and culture.

    Old Porto's Bakery family pictures. Photo courtesy of Porto's Bakery.
    Old Porto's Bakery family pictures. Photo courtesy of Porto's Bakery.

    “There is nothing more Cuban than guava pastries. We have it on every occasion, at every family gathering. It is a Cuban staple. Growing up in Cuba, guava is everywhere. It was one of the fruits accessible to everyone, and because of that, I would consider it one of our comfort foods,” said Betty Porto, Rosa’s daughter.

    “Memories fade over time, but that smell of the guava, oh man, it’s like it activates and unlocks all these memories from our past...”

    The sweet treat that was put away for nearly 30 years used to be offered at the bakery’s first location in Echo Park. Eventually, Porto’s replaced the pie in the 90s with their now-famous cream cheese and guava strudels. Tony Salazar Porto’s Vice President of Operations and Executive Pastry Chef said the comeback of the guava pie is nostalgic. 

    To ensure a great tasting pie and before officially re-launching it on April 6, Salazar and the Porto family tested the recipe multiple times at home. During this process, they realized how powerful the smell of guava is not just to their senses but to their memory. 

    Rosa Porto posing in front of her then-new bakery. Photo courtesy of Porto's Bakery.
    Betty and Margarita Porto. Photo courtesy of Porto's Bakery.

    “Memories fade over time, but that smell of the guava, oh man, it’s like it activates and unlocks all these memories from our past,” Salazar said via Zoom. “Especially for us as immigrants, it’s a reminder of home.” Like the Porto family, other immigrant families in the U.S. also stay connected and pay homage to their culture and homeland through the food they cook. 

    Through these recipes, the family has created lasting memories both with each other and their customers. For Rosa’s son Raul Porto, the smell of the warm guava brought back memories of when his mom would bake cakes in their small apartment. One memory that makes him laugh to this day is when a neighbor's dog ate one of Rosa’s cakes that she had left cooling on a table. “Needless to say, the dog was happy as hell,” said Porto. 

    “They loved making guava jam. It’s a big part of the culture. It’s who we are,” said Porto. “My dad still makes it by himself even though he has a little dementia, believe it or not. He will still do it.”

    He said up until her last moments. Rosa was still in charge of the kitchen at home. Before her passing, she had an aid who helped her around the house, but that didn't stop Rosa from adding her own sazón to her meals. “She would taste it and ask the lady to put a little more salt or put more of this. That was mom. She showed her love through food,” said Porto.

    His most recent and fondest memory is of his mom and dad making guava jam at home five months before Rosa’s passing. 

    “They loved making guava jam. It’s a big part of the culture. It’s who we are,” said Porto. “My dad still makes it by himself even though he has a little dementia, believe it or not. He will still do it.”

    Old Porto's Bakery family pictures. Photo courtesy of Porto's Bakery.
    Old Porto's Bakery family pictures. Photo courtesy of Porto's Bakery.

    That’s the power of guava. He described how the process to make guava jam which is the star in any good guava pie, is relatively simple. His parents would peel and wash the guayabas, reduce them with some water, sugar, and a pinch of limón before storing them in jars. Refusing to buy nice jars, the Porto's would find any sealable container to store their jam in, from empty mayonnaise containers to empty butter containers. Once ready, Porto said it was tradition to gift the jam to loved ones and friends. A tradition that they still practice to this day, giving co-workers a fresh homemade jar.  

    Creating these types of memories is what they hope their customers will do with their Bake at Home service. Saying they have their own memories with that guava pie, but they also want people at home to build their own memories with their families. 

    With the Bake at Home service, the pie comes uncooked and includes puff pastry, European-style (meaning higher fat) butter, and of course, the sweet guava jam. The entire pie is already coated with egg wash and is ready to pop in the oven. When the bakery temporarily closed during the pandemic, what kept much of their business afloat was their Bake at Home services. 

    “That's the beauty of L.A. food. It's expressing all our backgrounds, trying each other's food and learning about each other's culture.”

    “Even when we were supposed to stay apart, our bakery became an avenue to bring people together through Bake at Home because people were ordering items to bake with their family and friends via Zoom,” said Salazar. “And what better way to commemorate that than with Rosa’s Guava pie.”

    Of course, L.A. TACO had to ask the family if they are thinking of bringing back any other recipes from the vault-like they did with the Guava Pie, to which Porto said, “Maybe we're gonna start doing throw-back items.” 

    But for now, the family is happy to bring back Rosa’s Guava Pie for everyone to enjoy from the comfort of their home. 

    “It's all about the experience we want to be part of people's story, and we want them to be part of our story too,” he said. “That's the beauty of L.A. food. It's expressing all our backgrounds, trying each other's food and learning about each other's culture.”

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