Rosa Porto, the Cuban immigrant and baker who founded Porto’s Bakery & Café, died Friday at 89.
An Instagram post from the restaurant chain said Porto “passed peacefully … surrounded by her loving husband and family.” It drew a deluge of supportive responses from the restaurant’s fans and frequent patrons. No cause of death was given.
Porto began baking and selling cakes to support her family in the late 1950s in Manzanillo, Cuba, after Fidel Castro took power of the island. She and her husband Raul were finally allowed to leave the country in the early 1970s and landed in Los Angeles, where she kept baking Cuban cakes from home, selling them to neighbors and fellow Cuban immigrants.
In 1976, Porto got a loan to open her first official storefront, a tiny bakery on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. Over time, she became famous among the local Cuban community for making authentic guava and cheese strudels, potato balls, empanadas, cakes and other pastries. In 1982, after cultivating a loyal customer base, Porto’s moved from Echo Park to a larger location on Brand Boulevard in Glendale, which is still open today.
The bakery later opened additional locations in Buena Park, Burbank, Downey and West Covina. In May, the chain announced it signed a lease to open a bakery in the shuttered 14,854-square-foot Sears Auto Center in the parking lot of Northridge Fashion Center, slated to open in mid-to-late 2020.
In the late 1990s, Rosa retired from the business to spend more time with her family. The company was subsequently helmed by her three children, Betty, Margarita and Raul Jr.