Growing up in Brooklyn Martino Junior and Jennifer Therese were used to being able to walk to the corner shop and bring it home any number of items to enjoy while sitting on the stoop talking to their neighbors.
With the they hope they were able to bring a little bit of their neighborhood to their new home here in Howell. "We decided that there really is no place that you can go to sit down and have a cup of coffee and a pastry," Junior said of their motivation.
There are plenty of places to eat in the area, but Junior said they wanted to make a new go to place. "We like to go out to eat and we like to go someplace different for a pastry and a cup of coffee and not have it in the restaurant all the time," he said. "We couldn't find that out here so we decided to change that."
With the help of their partners Jay and Helen Todhitl Junior said what started as a joke has become a business they all care deeply about. "We looked at several different places and we thought this was going to be the best fit for us so here we are," he said.
None of the items are baked on the premises but Therese said what makes them special is that all their goods come straight from Brooklyn. "The whole concept behind this was to bring Brooklyn to Jersey and if we were to bake it it wouldn't be authentic," she said.
Junior said it is not just the water in Brooklyn that makes the difference but the experienced bakers that make it. "It's the water, but it's more so the hands that are touching it," he said. "Anybody can use the water, but not every bakery in Brooklyn is good and every bakery uses the same water. It's the hands that are touching it."
Working with a variety of Brooklyn bakeries Therese said they are able to give their customers the best of everything. "We kind of cherry picked what we thought were the best and that seems to be working," Therese added. "We didn't just go to any bakers in Brooklyn, we went to specific ones who had the best bread, who had the best cannoli cream, who had the best specific pastries."
The Howell shop also works with its customers and bakers in Brooklyn to deliver custom made cakes for anything from birthdays to graduations and anything in between. "We could do whatever anybody wants," Therese said. "Not only are they beautiful, because they're so beautiful I get upset that they're going to cut them, but they also taste very very good."
The display case is stocked with any number of cookies, cupcakes, pies and cakes but the cannoli shells sit empty waiting to be filled on an individual basis. "I'll bet if someone put five cannolis on five different plates and they tried them they're going to come back to ours," Junior said.
What matters to Junior is the quality of the items he sells which is why he gets deliveries from Brooklyn everyday if he is not making the trip there himself. Sometimes when the shop gets busy that can mean making at least one trip to New York if not more to bring back the freshest items to sell to his local customers.
Just in case there was any question where the owners come from, the answer can be found on the menu board with their variety of signature sandwiches. Junior said the names of the sandwiches come from where they grew up. "It's either where we're from or stomping grounds when we were younger."
Combining Boar's Head products and their fresh baked bread helps set them apart from their competition according to Therese. "If you put Boar's Head on a really good piece of New York bread, nothing can beat it," she said.
Brooklyn Cafe & Pastry is closed on Monday but opens Tuesday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. They are also open on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. "If they could squeeze another day in I'd probably be open," Junior said. "
Whether it is helping the customers get the cake of their dreams or just the perfect loaf of bread for dinner Therese said the best part is getting to know the people they are serving. "The customers we have are really nice people reminiscing about Brooklyn," he said. "You hear all the New York accents flying all over the place. It's nice."
Many of their customers may come from the Empire State, but Therese said they are also growing their Garden State clientele as well. "I think we've turned a lot of Jersey people onto this stuff," she said with a laugh.