|Award-winning cookie set to go countywide
Grant gives Mama Baretta chance at larger circulation
No matter how hectic the day, Debra Baretta-Rogers understands the importance of gathering around the dinner table as a family to enjoy a nutritious meal, a tradition she acquired through her Italian heritage and one that inspires her small gluten-free bakery, Mama Baretta’s in Penngrove.
“Food and family are the most important things for Italians,” she explains. “I wanted to bring everybody back to the table with allergy-friendly food so no one feels weird or isolated.”
A first-generation Italian, Baretta was submerged into the baker’s lifestyle early on as her father worked for various North Bay bakeries after moving from Torino, Italy and her mother worked hard at home in order to provide her family with delicious foods with natural ingredients. In April of 2010, Baretta began baking cookies and breads for her twelve-year old son Cory, who suffered food allergies.
“I didn’t intend for it to become a business,” she says breathlessly. “It was just a word-of-mouth thing, really. I was just cooking and sharing food locally with people who suffered the same issues.”
She began by distributing her biscotti in Oliver’s Market and recently won Best Cookie at this year’s Harvest Festival with her Salted Caramel Nut Lace cookie, a recipe she discovered by accident while exploring new gluten-free cookie options in the kitchen one day with her son. True to her homage to natural and healthy ingredients, she uses coconut nectar in place of corn syrup and her husband was the one who suggested adding Carmel.
In the wake of the overwhelming success of her cookie, Baretta had hopes to distribute them to a wider audience in small individual bags, an expense she can now afford because of a $5,000 grant she received from Inuit’s “Love Our Local Business” program. Having utilized their software to run her business, she submitted her wish after hearing about the program and in December became one of the 15 nationwide winners. Because of Inuit, the Sonoma County famous caramel cookie now has the opportunity to be enjoyed all over the North Bay.
Currently Baretta uses the baking facilities at Meals on Wheels in Santa Rosa as well as JavAmore in Penngrove to produce her delicacies and distributes at local farmer’s markets, Redwood Café, Andy’s Market, Tara Firma Farms and other local grocers. They are also available to order from her website: www.mamabaretta.com.
Running a small business is hard work but a challenge Baretta was ready for, especially with offered support from her husband, Jim, who helps bake and her 11-, 12- and 13-year-old sons who are kept busy packaging and washing dishes.
“Never compromise the integrity of your product for profit or substitute natural ingredients for chemicals,” she advises. “That’s a huge thing for me. Being passionate about what you do is what is takes. Believe in what you’re doing, and that will take you where you want to go.”
As for the future? Baretta speaks passionately about the irreplaceable smell, taste and texture of a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven, something she recalls as a girl in her father’s bakery. Aside from equipping homes with quality food consumable by anyone, she hopes one day to open a small storefront in order to deliver that experience to the customers who visit.