Food Interviews

A Taste of Portugal at this East Providence Bakery

Staying close to her roots, Taunton Avenue Bakery owner and baker Maggie Soares bakes up Portuguese treats

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The bakery on Taunton Avenue isn’t a new feature on the culinary landscape of East Providence – the location’s history stretches back some 35 years. However, it is experiencing a renaissance under the stewardship of Maggie Soares and her team. Maggie and her husband re-opened it last year after the original location was devastated by a fire. Much to the delight of the Portuguese and East Providence communities, they’ve reopened in a new location to offer traditional Portuguese sweet and savory treats as well as custom decorated cakes.

What made you want to bring Portuguese treats to East Providence by opening a bakery?
I was born in Lisbon, Portugal and my husband was born on one of the islands in the Azores, Terceira. As teenagers, we moved to East Providence since Rhode Island has a big Portuguese community. It’s where my family has lived their whole lives. By bringing the Portuguese culture here through foods such as bread and pastries, it reminds everyone a little bit of Portugal.

As for why I chose to open a bakery, I really believe in the importance of local bakeries. This is where the best breads and pastries are made. You need to have a passion for baking and understand the process of every single recipe – that’s what makes a great bakery.

If someone has never had a traditional Portuguese pastry before, what should they try first? And what is your favorite item on the menu?

Anyone who’s new to Portuguese patisserie should try a traditional pastel de nata – custard tarts; they are to die for! As for my favorite thing on the menu, it would have to be the espresso with a papo seco – Portuguese buttered roll – and Portuguese St. Jorge cheese – or the chocolate croissant.

It’s so difficult to choose a favorite item because we have so many options. We offer hot sandwiches to go, chourico and peppers, cacoila pulled pork and pork loin, plus our ham, cheese, prosciutto, and spinach and feta pastries.
 
You also offer specialty and wedding cakes. What should someone consider when designing his or her own special cake?
Every cake is unique. You can bring in a picture and ask me to make a cake just like it, but every baker has their own way to decorate a cake and their own signature. I’m always ready to give my ideas and sketch something for my client that they will love.
 
Being a baker is a lot of work. Tell me about what it takes to bake everything up?
I have a really great team working for me. I have a head pastry chef and assistant chef who start at 5am. There’s also a baker who’s here by 4:30am for the special hot bread during the day.

Then we have bakers that start working on the bread at 8pm every night because we still make bread the old fashioned way: we mix the dough and let it rise in its own time. It’s a huge part of our authentic approach to baking.

Do you ever find time to take a break and unwind?
My friend Dave owns a few Brewed Awakenings coffee shops. That’s a place I love to stop by to have a coffee and a treat.

Taunton Avenue Bakery
217 Taunton Avenue, East Providence
401-434-3450