Attention greater Houston area! The Cake Boss has landed! That’s right, Carlo’s Bakery has set up their first Houston location out at the Woodland’s mall. The new kiosk opened last weekend and I was one of the lucky few to visit while owner Buddy Valastro welcomed customers on grand opening day. Even better, I also got a chance to speak with Buddy’s brother in law Mauro Castano! Check out my experience below :).
The Carlo’s bakery here is a kiosk right outside of Victoria’s Secret in the middle of the mall. Perfect location if you ask me. Despite it being a smaller kiosk, the bakery still features quite a few items similar to those I saw in New York when I visited.
This go around I went with a cannoli, Carlo’s signature dish and a red velvet cupcake. Presentation for this cupcake was A-1 with the addition of a few pecans on top. If you love a true cream cheese icing with little sugar added, then you’ll enjoy this cupcake. From the show, I knew a lot of effort went into making these cannols, so I had to get one of those for the road. During my interview with Mauro, he confirmed that even more so. The time and effort shows though. It is the perfect dessert and lighter than some of the sweets you’d pick up elsewhere.
Also of note, while the kiosk is right smack in the middle of the mall, they intend to bake everything on site. Visitors can see and smell the goodness as they shop. I imagine there will be many folks who will follow their nose to the kiosk in weeks to come. There is also another storage space at the mall for them to store and bake other items. Even with that, it is pretty amazing all that they are able to create in such a limited space!
Interview with Mauro Castano
Can I just start with the fact that this guy is THE nicest! Part of the appeal of Cake Boss is that the audience feels like they are part of the family. “Family” was a common theme during my interview with Mauro. Before our interview started, I watched as Mauro took pictures with a line of customers and he did not seem a bit irritated. One we started our chat, I of course asked how is it working with your in-laws. Mauro was quick to acknowledge they argue over business issues in the “Italian way,” but these problems quickly are solved and shortly thereafter they all having dinner at one of their homes.
In keeping with this theme of “family” Mauro highlighted how important it is for them to “be good to the customers” and it shows! For one, the line on opening day stretched about half of the mall. While they seemed excited about this line, Mauro seemed very cognizant of how that could discourage someone from visiting the Bake Shop. Mauro talked about efforts to keep the line moving to ensure everyone is served. I did ask if there were plans to expand in Houston (preferably in the loop) and he noted that if business continues to boom it is something they would definitley look at. Cities like Dallas already have plans for second locations.
Now the kiosk of course will not feature all of the great items that you can pick up at the bigger bakeries around the country, but some of their best items are surely present. Mauro explained that a lot of analysis goes into determining what is best to present at the smaller bakeries.
Mauro named the cannoli and lobster tails as his favorite items from the bakery. He also noted that after spending a good portion of his youth in Italy, these cannolis are the real deal authentic Italian style. Finally, he indicated that everything is about quality there and that the family is fussy about what they offer. He said “there is the right way, the wrong way and OUR way of doing things.” I like that! As Carlo’s Bake Shop expands beyond New Jersey, it is even more important for them to stay true to what made them a household name. They seem to be doing JUST that.
I should note that I am a sucker for restaurants featured on reality shows. You can take a gander at my Traveling Foodie tab for proof. This holds true for my stop over to Carlo’s Bake Shop. I am glad that they lived up to the hype in terms of their baked good and their welcoming personalities!