Forty-five years ago this week, Gayle and Joe Ortiz opened a tiny bakery in tiny Capitola Village. Scratch-made pastries, including croissants Gayle learned to make in Paris, attracted locals from the get-go. Five years later, after a gastronomic fact-finding trip to Italy, the couple added an Italianate deli crowned with a wall-sized rotisserie. With thousands of square feet devoted to specialties, sweet and savory, to consume in the sunny garden dining room or to take home, Gayle’s is an insanely consistent and popular Central Coast pit stop.
I’ve had countless coffee and pastry mornings with female colleagues and taken home countless items from bulging cold cases for heat-and-serve lunches and dinners. Nothing I’ve tasted from Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria has ever disappointed. Neither gigantic almond croissants, crunchy biscotti nor fresh sliced porchetta.
So, it was easy to bring home special items for our two-day Valentine’s graze. A boxed order of Miso-glazed Salmon and Sticky Rice with Shiitakes and Edamame looked intriguing, and so did the Valentine Chicken Piccata dinner, sided with long asparagus spears and voluptuous pasta formaggio laced with prosciutto and sage (both $23.95). We added an order of our favorite beet and orange salad ($5.50). Here’s where things always get difficult at Gayle’s. Pastry displays shimmer like the windows of Tiffany’s. For once, I didn’t hesitate. A single, substantial, beautiful Red Velvet Cupcake with a beautifully piped mountain of cream cheese frosting ($4.75) almost didn’t make it out of the parking lot.
The first night we split the salmon, along with glasses of a light, grassy, peach-inflected Storrs Sauvignon Blanc 2021. With our Chicken Piccata the next night, we succumbed to an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 from Gilroy’s Martin Ranch. With each bite, the cab proved a perfect choice. The chicken was succulent and tender, and the luscious cheese-coated pasta retained its firm texture, an authentic tribute to Gayle’s kitchen since we heated it in our oven before serving. Lots of cherries and plums in the opening, with a middle of granite and a finish haunted by oregano. A lovely wine to go with a lovely dish.
Everything in these take-home meals tastes fresh and pure, rather than the too-often muddy flavors that can happen with meals prepared in other kitchens and then microwaved at home. It’s a delicious formula Gayle’s has mastered. Dinner for two—or one if you’re Travis Kelce—for under $25.
The salmon dinner the night before was also excellent. The generous slice of thick steamed salmon filet had been sauced with creamy, almost sweet miso and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. With it came a rockstar side of sticky rice liberally embedded with fat green soybeans and generous slices of shiitake. Another side of wok’d baby bok choi and spinach quickly disappeared under our forks. So nice to dine on food as fine as many of our top restaurants yet enjoy the casual no-fuss ambiance of our own dining table, with lots of candlelight. And no sauté pans to wash!
Sophisticated comfort food and imaginative menus are as much a fixture of Gayle’s as are the down-homey meatloaf, lasagne or roast beef and potatoes to-go dinners.
And yes, that red velvet cupcake tasted as good as it looked. I removed a half inch of frosting to balance the cake and frosting into an adult ratio. Tender tangy cake, luscious tangy frosting. Happy 45th to Gayle’s, and happy Valentine’s to us!
Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria, 504 Bay Ave., Capitola, 831-462-1200; gaylesbakery.com
This over 85 depends on Gayles for “real” food. It saddens me to say that many of the blue plate meals are massed produced to a point beyond tasty !
I’m always happy with their food.
They make a cake that is wheat free, thank you because it’s the only indulgence I have. Choc. With whipped cream and a drizzle
of fudge on top. They put either a hint of raspberry or orange in it.
I really wish it was there to buy each time I’m there.
The valentines truffle cake was not my favorite. But that’s my opinion.
Every time my friends come to see us, we make one or two trips to Gayles and Joe’s.
Everything is so good that you’ll have a hard time choosing. 🌟
I lived across the street from Gayle’s in the 80’s. My gawd I loved that place! I became so addicted that even after moving to San Jose I would go once a week. Now I live off the west coast of Africa and what I wouldn’t give for just one more trip to Gayle’s. Thanks for the memories!!
We used to make Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticcera a location to hit for breakfast and/or lunch when we went to Santa Cruz … which was quite often. Now, we live in Washington state, and we miss it desperately. My favorites to eat were the frittata, breakfast burrito and the chicken enchilada which was the best I ever have had! I would love to get the recipes of the burrito and enchilada … I have already found the frittata and hope to recreate it.
I see that Gayle has many recipe books, but which one has the burrito and enchilada recipes??