Alberto Plaza and his wife, both originally from Chile, had been looking for a location to open up their specialty bakery, which is simply named ‘Chilean Bakery’.
“I was looking for a place,” Alberto stated as we sat in his bakery enjoying a freshly made empanada, “And through a friend in the area, I heard about this place and liked the location.”
Mr. Plaza was referring to the corner of East Lincoln Avenue and Hemlock Street, where Peace Of Cakes previously stood before the owners moved their shop to Princeton. He knew Roselle Park would bring customers to his niche eatery since the closest Chilean bakery was about 45 minutes away in Hudson County. Now, seven months later, more people than ever have started to notice the bakery set in the quiet neighborhood of houses with tree-lined streets. He spoke about the location, “It didn’t have to be a populated area because wherever we ended up, people would come. Not only Chileans but those looking for a good bakery.”
In August, the Star-Ledger did a write up on Chilean Bakery’s empanadas, which are a popular Chilean dish of meat or cheese, onions, olives, eggs, and spices wrapped in a flour dough with secret ingredients.
Now customers from all over, not just Chileans, are ordering empanadas and other foods that Mr. Plaza and his family prepare fresh on the premises. The newspaper article, as well as word of mouth, bring new customers to his bakery; but Mr. Plaza says that his greatest appeal are the smells from the kitchen. He recounted one story where a woman from the neighborhood came in and asked about the aroma that was coming through the air.
“She said whatever you’re cooking is driving me crazy,” Mr. Plaza said, “I told her it was an empanada and she ordered one. The next night, she brought her whole family.”
Having worked in bakeries in Chile since he was 12 years old and owning his own bakery in his home country, Alberto Plaza developed his skills which he now applies to not only making empanadas but bread, pasteles, pastries, cookies, cakes, sweets, and other foods, including his wife’s home-made hot sauce for the empanadas.
Along with freshly baked goods, Chilean Bakery offers a range of Chilean products like alinos, aji, Chilean mustard, Chilean soda, espresso, cappuccino, and coffee. The Plaza family also sells American standards like chips, cookies, candy, soda, and juice.
September 18th, which is Chile’s Independence Day, will have the Plaza family giving a little extra to commemorate the day but their bakery is like a history lesson on Chilean culture with music, painting, cultural artifacts, a typical dress of the huaso – or Chilean countryman, paintings, and statue replicas from Easter Island; the famous island off the coast of Chile.
But not to worry, Mr. Plaza makes specialty cakes, including American-style birthday cakes, too. He said, “Even though it’s called ‘Chilean Bakery’, at its heart, it’s a bakery.”
Chilean Bakery is located at the corner of Hemlock Street & East Lincoln Avenue and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; they are closed on Mondays. Their phone number is (908) 241-3684.