A Delicious Tradition
Rao’s Bakery Coffee Café is the best way to start your day in Beaumont, Texas.
This Southeastern regional bakery chain (five locations) is owned by second generation Sicilian Giacomo “Jake” Tortorice, Jr. Born and raised in Beaumont, Tortorice grew up coming to Rao’s Bakery as a child. Rao’s was founded 70 years ago by legendary baker Johnny Rao. Today, Tortoice feels an obligation to maintain the high standards on which Rao built the business. When the original bakery began in 1941, they started as a cake bakery. In the ensuing years, they’ve expanded to include pastries such as cream puffs, sliced cheesecake, fruit tarts¸ petit fours, and éclairs, among others; several different types of brownies and lemon squares; and cookies and cupcakes. They also make a huge selection of cakes ranging from Chocolate Mousse and Almond Strawberry Shortcake to Tres Leches.
When Tortoice bought the business, he kept the Rao’s tradition of making everything fresh daily, including all the sandwich breads, using local ingredients and no additives or fillers. He also added a Sicilian touch by using many of his grandmother’s 100-year-old recipes from the old country such as Sicilian Egg and Olive Salad Sandwich (egg salad, green olives, fresh parsley, dried onions , and Kosher salt; Pimento Cheese Sandwich (cheddar, pimentos, mayo, black pepper, and fresh parsley; and Sicilian Tuna Sandwich with white albacore tuna, Roma tomatoes, black olives, green onions, mozzarella, olive oil and lemon juice, fresh parsley, salt and pepper. The Sicilian influence is also found in the many flavors of gelato available, made daily, and the excellent espresso drinks they serve.
While the sandwiches look wonderful, we were there to enjoy breakfast and did we ever. Rao’s offers a selection of grilled breakfast wraps such as sausage, egg, and cheese, or black bean, egg, and jalapeno cheese (a local favorite). We especially loved the Kolaches, a Checkoslovakian inspired sausage-in-a-blanket made with savory locally made Zummo sausage and a slightly sweet dough with just the right tooth.
Breakfast at Rao’s isn’t just about the sweet stuff. They make a variety of egg sandwiches and wraps, all on their own freshly-baked breads, as well as Kolaches, dough-wrapped sausages.Yum!
If it’s breakfast baked goods you’re after, try their cinnamon rolls (cream cheese with nuts, cinnamon with raisins, pecan sticky bun, or mini-cinnamon). We sampled their cream cheese with nuts, a six-inch roll with tender dough, a boatload off fresh cinnamon, and just the right amount of not-overly-sweet glaze. During Mardi Gras season, Raos’s offers the legendary King Cakes, circular, twisted cinnamon dough painted with purple, green, and white glaze (traditional Mardi Gras colors). Besides the traditional cinnamon cake, they make strawberry, cream cheese, blueberry, and other flavors. The Zulu King Cake, which honors African Americans, is a chocolate chip cake frosted with chocolate and topped with coconut.
“Unlike other places, we don’t take stuff off of a truck and thaw it,” says Tortorice. “We make our King Cakes fresh every day without any additives. We’re a dying breed. ” Every year, Rao’s sells about 1500 of the King Cakes per store. The large cakes sell for $15. They ship next day air nationwide. — BH
Rao’s Bakery, three locations in Beaumont (2596 Calder Ave. ;4440 Dowlen Rd.; and Memorial Baptist Hospital (kiosk). They also have stores in Nederland, TX (3504 Hwy 365) and inHouston (6915 Cypresswood, suite F).