By Pamela Dozois
Bread may be considered the staff of life, but not all breads are equal. The Bread Shop in Solvang serves homemade artisan bread, straight from the oven, warm and sumptuous, made daily by owners John and Elena Pascu.
Upon entering the shop, one’s olfactory senses are delighted by the aroma of fresh baked bread wafting from the kitchen. The Bread Shop opened on March 14, 2017, and has been successfully treating locals and visitors alike to a variety of baked goods made in the Eastern European style.
In a tiny, brightly lit shop, tucked away on Atterdag Road, with only three small tables, customers can see through a large viewing window into the kitchen where the dough is being kneaded by hand. Everything is made fresh daily. They offer a wide variety of breads and homemade sandwiches, olive oils, artisan pastas, tapenades, and seasonal gift baskets.
The Pascus immigrated to the United States from Romania in 2001. They decided to move to the Santa Ynez Valley three years ago because Solvang is very similar in architecture and terrain to their former home in Transylvania, Romania.
“Bread making is a passion for my mother. She began making her own style of bread more than 30 years ago. What we sell in the store are all her own recipes, which are even a little different from what you would find in Romania,” explained Aida Pascu, daughter of the owners. “Our main baked goods have an Eastern European flair. Some of our specialties originate in Transylvania. Our most popular bread is our brioche which is filled with Nutella. People come here for it specifically. This is the only place to acquire the original Nutella brioche.”
“I’ve never seen Elena look at a recipe – everything is in her head,” said store manager Marcy Rose.
The Pascus’ two daughters, Aida and Loredona, immigrated to America in 1994 and subsequently arranged for their parents to come to live in the USA.
“My sister and I were professional ballet dancers performing with the New York City Ballet. That’s how we initially arrived in the United States. We continued dancing and then later switched our passion to interior design. We were then able to bring our parents to this country,” Aida explained.
“My dad was an air traffic controller in Romania. After he retired, they owned a restaurant in Transylvania called Loreaida, named after their two daughters, making baked goods similar to The Bread Shop here in Solvang. But it wasn’t until three years ago that we decided to turn my mother’s passion into a business,” she said. “My sister and I designed and opened the store for our parents to give them a place where they could fulfill their dreams.”
Some of the breads on the menu are Stuffed Gouda Twist, Triple Mozzarella Basil Baked Rolls, Parmesan Crisps, Bagels, Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf, a variety of pretzels, muffins, cake loaves and their house special, created by Elena, which contains a variety of cheeses, garlic, olives, and a special treat inside.
“I think this is probably the cleanest store in Solvang,” said Hazel Mortensen, who stopped by for a loaf of bread. “There is a window where customers can see the bread being made and you can see for yourself how clean it is. There is not a speck on the floors even.”
“We have always been fastidious about cleanliness in my family,” said Aida. “It’s just our way.”
Aida recalled an incident from her mother’s childhood and how she overcame adversity.
“My mother had a terrible accident in Romania when she was 10 years old,” Aida recalled. “The library she was in collapsed and she was the only survivor. She was in the hospital for two years and was told she would never walk again or have children, but she overcame those disabilities, eventually working at the same rebuilt library, and she is now living her dream.”
The Pascus live in Skytt Mesa and have two daughters and three granddaughters, two of whom are twins. Their daughters both live in Los Angeles but they come to Solvang on weekends to help their parents with the business.
The Bread Shop, at 473 Atterdag Road, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For more information, call 805-691-9290 or visit solvangbreadshop.com.