2Good2B Bakery & Café garnering raves for delicious gluten-free food

Mike Barbanti and Diana Benedek, with her son, Aaron, with some of the gluten-free desserts at 2Good2B Bakery & Café in Encinitas. Photo: Kelley Carlson

By Kelley Carlson

When Mike Barbanti first started trying to make a gluten-free dessert that everyone would love, he discovered that the process wasn’t going to be a piece of cake.

But after numerous tries, a cake is what he came up with — a lemon layer that he felt could hold its own against one made with wheat.

“The true test would be to show up at a party and not tell anyone it was a wheat-free cake,” Barbanti said in a news release. “My friends can eat wheat and some of them are food snobs, and all of them are critics, so I knew I’d get honest feedback. I believed this cake was good, really good, but I never expected to hear things like, ‘This is the best lemon cake I’ve ever had,’ and ‘I don’t really like lemon cake, but this is excellent.’ ”

These days, Barbanti is co-owner of the gluten-free 2Good2B Bakery & Café with his business partner Diana Benedek.

Before turning to this specialty type of food and collaborating in a business, Barbanti and Benedek both had plenty of experience cooking.

Barbanti said in an interview that while growing up, he helped his mom in the kitchen. She would often prepare “comfort-style food,” which was big at the time, in the 1970s. Barbanti continued to develop his passion over the years, and in the process became an addict of the Food Network.

But in 2007, he was diagnosed with Celiac disease, a digestive condition that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. Those who suffer from Celiac disease can’t tolerate gluten, a protein in barley, wheat and rye.

“Eating the gluten-free products that were available kept me from getting sick, but I was making my family and friends sick because I was complaining so much,” Barbanti said. “Something had to change.”

So Barbanti began changing his cooking methods and experimenting with gluten-free items. After developing the lemon layer cake, he debuted a carrot cake at a Thanksgiving dinner, which also garnered praise.

In 2009, Barbanti developed his talents into an online business called 2Good2B … gluten-free. Initially, it was a side venture for him, but it grew in popularity.

Benedek discovered Barbanti when ordering a cake for her son, who is physically unable to tolerate gluten. When she served the dessert at a party, there was a lot of positive feedback, and she became interested in Barbanti’s mission of providing gluten-free products that taste better than those made traditionally. Gluten-free items often taste sandy and gritty, she said in an interview.

Also a self-described “foodie,” Benedek grew up with many ethnic influences — her grandfather was Turkish; father, Portugese; mother, French; and she is Brazilian. She lived many years in Europe and Quebec, Canada, and developed a special fondness for bread — especially French baguettes.

Benedek said she would cook when not working — at one time, she had an international career in water/wastewater treatment at SNC-Lavalin and ZENON Environmental Inc.

Around the time she retired from her professional career, Benedek dedicated herself to preparing food, but that same year, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (long-term, bodywide pain and tenderness in the joins and tissues), herniated cervical disks, early Hashimoto’s disease (dysfunctional thyroid) and arthritis.

Rather than go through surgery to get relief from back pains and headaches, Benedek decided to experiment with her diet, and eliminated gluten, corn and soy. The Rancho Santa Fe resident began feeling healthy again and avoided surgery and medications.
After crossing paths with Barbanti, Benedek joined forces with him, and together they opened 2Good2B Bakery & Café in June at the former location of It’s a Grind coffeehouse in Encinitas.

Among the items offered are desserts, bread, panini, quiche, Neopolitan-style pizza and baguettes.

“We wanted it to be a bakery for everyone,” Benedek said.

Barbanti said they have received a lot of positive response. Some people drive many miles to come to the bakery.

“They say thank you … for being here and giving us real food again,” he said.

“The cupcakes and cookies are unmatchable in the gluten-free industry today, anywhere,” said customer Dr. Charley Scott, a chiropractor who also specializes in nutrition and gluten intolerance from the alternative side.

Barbanti and Benedek said they plan to expand their business after the holidays. There will be full menus that will include comfort foods such as baked mac ‘n’ cheese, pot pies, soups, lasagna and meatballs, and a takeout service will also be offered.

In addition, there will be more catering options — right now, 2Good2B offers desserts and breads, but full meals will be offered, as well, once the restaurant changes occur.

“We’ll never introduce a product that only people forced to eat gluten-free will tolerate,” Barbanti said. “Whether it’s a loaf of artisan bread, a quiche or toasted coconut cake, everything has to be excellent by anyone’s standards. Our name isn’t ‘Kinda Good’ or ‘Sorta Good.’ It’s ‘2Good2B,’ and the name says it all.”

Fast Facts
What: 2Good2B Bakery & Café
Where: 204 N. El Camino Real, Suite H, Encinitas
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday
Contact: (760) 942-4663; www.2good2b.com

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Posted by Staff on Sep 12, 2011. Filed under Featured Story, Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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