The warm and hearty aroma of freshly baked bread, large bags of Italian coffee beans, and —oddly —1980’s synth pop consumes your senses upon walking into Gran Milan Bakery and Café. The tiny bakery produces just about any pastry one could desire, from enormous tarts stacked high with fruit, to jelly donuts lightly dusted with powdered sugar.
Gran Milan serves some of the most authentic Italian dishes in the area, making it one of the most unique spots in the city.
“You like it?”hollers Rufo Verga, owner of Gran Milan, from the back kitchen, where he busily whips up everything his customers eat.
Upon seeing my enthusiastic nod and thumbs up, which is all I could muster while chomping down a mouthful of margarita pizza, Verga’s face lightens into a soft smile and he says, “Good, good,”and gets back to work.
Verga’s bakery and caféis small, but he takes it seriously. When he’s not chatting with his customers, the Italian chef is diligently rolling dough or prepping meals for the steady stream of customers.
The reason he does this work is simple. “This is my job,”Verga says brusquely as he shifts tasks in his kitchen. It’s the lunch rush, and he doesn’t have much time for small talk. As long as his customers are happy and everything is running smoothly, he’s happy.
While whipping up enormous pastries and mouthwatering pizzas might just be his job, Verga happens to be excellent at it. The quality that he brings to his food is the reason that the small café, which is in a pretty out-of-the way location, keeps such regular foot traffic during lunch hours.
Gran Milan is tucked in a small industrial strip mall just north of where 580 and 80 meet, in a little part of Richmond that’s almost El Cerrito. Finding the cafétook some searching, admittedly. If you have a hard time finding it, keep an eye out for the large planters stuffed with flowers out front that mark the café’s entrance; they’re right across from the auto body repair ship.
One must-have off their menu is the prosciutto mushroom pizza. The pizza is a great deal —14’’for just around $10 —and it comes piled with the thinly-sliced, savory Italian meat. The mushrooms that lie underneath are cooked to a juicy tenderness that would make any mushroom pizza from Pizza Hut ashamed of itself.
The only downside to Gran Milan (besides the caloric content of every item on the menu) is its location. If the restaurant was based in Point Richmond or Macdonald Avenue, it would be an instant classic. Right now, it’s a little hard to stumble upon by chance. But once you have one meal (or pastry, or freshly baked loaf of bread) from Gran Milan, that won’t be a problem —you’ll be back again.
Gran Milan Bakery and Café
5327 Jacuzzi St, Richmond
Tel. (510) 984-0679
Monday - Friday: 7 am to 7 pm
Saturday: 8 am to 5 pm