Borracchini's - Now That's Italian! -- Pleasing Customers Is Baker's Raison D'etre

A little girl runs into Remo Borracchini's Bakery and Mediterranean Market. Her birthday cake is just about to be decorated.

The girl, 9-year-old Stephenie, scrambles up the steps made for kids to watch. Pressing her nose against the window, she watches as her cake is decorated with pink flowers and green vines. Above her head, a sign reads: "Today's someone's birthday. Cakes made - while you wait."

Her cake takes less than five minutes, and she skips out with a smile on her face.

That's what Remo Borracchini, owner of the bakery, likes to see - satisfied customers. Swathed in a batter-splattered white apron, he walks around the bakery, checking details and calling customers by first names.

His bakery sells about 600 to 700 loaves of bread and several hundred cakes each day.

But in spite of that volume, Borracchini tries to make sure each customer is completely satisfied. Each of his 70 employees is ready to arrange any order, and the owner makes a point to be on hand, available to customers.

"If a customer has a problem, he can always talk to an owner here," Borracchini said.

Located on Rainier Avenue South, the bakery has been a family business since 1922. Looking for better economic opportunities, Mario and Maria Borracchini, Remo's parents, immigrated from Italy in 1921. After working at Maria's father's Tacoma restaurant for a year, they moved to Seattle to take over another Italian couple's bakery, called International French Bakery.

"My father started this bakery with the little money he could scrape together and a handshake," Borracchini said.

The couple did much of the baking in their home behind the nearby Oberto Sausage Co..

Their five children, including Remo, woke early to fire up the brick oven for their parents - and kept the oven heated all day while their mother baked bread. It wasn't until 1936, that the Borracchinis moved their bakery to the building on Rainier Avenue.

For years, Mario and Maria did not speak fluent English and did most of their business with Italians in the area.

As their English improved and their children joined the business, they were able to expand into retail sales.

In 1962, they changed their retail trade name to Ginger Belle and later changed it to Borracchini's to reflect their Italian style.

Today, Borracchini's customers can sit at tiny tables to share an espresso or a fresh cookie hot from the oven, with Italian music in the background.

The bakery offers almost everything: cookies, donuts, ice cream, real Italian pasta, homemade spaghetti sauce, more than a dozen breads, cheese, deli meat, wine, and real Italian biscotti.

"We sold biscotti before it became popular," Borracchini said.

But over the years, the biggest attraction has been the bakery's rich, creamy cakes.

Borracchini recalls a bride who went to another bakery to pick up her cake two hours before her wedding. The cake was cracked, and the bakery refused to fix it or refund her money. She came to Borracchini in tears, and he threw away the other bakery's cake, telling her to come back in half an hour.

"I had a new cake for her in 27 minutes," he said.

He gave her the cake without charge. "But I told her to go back to the other bakery and demand her money back," Borracchini said.

"My bottom line is that you've got to have fun with what you're doing," he said. "I don't come to work each day thinking about the money I want to make. I think about the future and my family."

Once, a big corporation asked him if the bakery was for sale, he recalled.

"My grandfather worked here until he was 97," Borracchini said. "My grandson is now four months old."

Call back in 97 years, he said, laughing.