A bakery that has been an institution in the borough for nearly a century was recognized last week for its commitment to the community.
On Thursday, December 12, Senator Gustavo Rivera honored Conti’s Pastry Shoppe, 786 Morris Park Avenue, with the New York State Senate Empire Award.
The award is given to a business that is a leader in their industry, promotes economic growth and positively impacts the community.
“It’s the first time that I’m here,” Rivera said. “This is the spot and it’s only been here for 98 years, so you’re probably doing something right.”
Conti’s Pastry Shoppe owner Safet Paljevic and his two partners, Christina DiRusso and Senada Paljevic accepted the award. The trio took over the business 17 years ago.
Conti’s Pastry Shoppe has been open ten decades and is a staple in the Morris Park and Van Nest neighborhoods. It is continuing the legacy established by Augustino Conti, who opened the shop in 1921.
Conti’s has received awards from the Edible Bronx, WeddingWire Couples’ Choice and Bride’s Choice Awards and has been featured on NBC and News12 The Bronx.
The trio spoke with the Bronx Times about the business and how they have maintained its success.
DiRusso, 34, who began working there behind the counter when she was around 18 or 19, told Sal, 44, about the opportunity to take over the place.
Paljevic, whose background is in real estate, took a leap of faith and purchased the eatery.
“I didn’t know anything about the bakery business,” Paljevic said.
“We were really lucky because he believed in what he saw,” DiRusso said. “He saw passion and I was very passionate about the store.”
The trio explained that the bakery was popular, but the product line needed a little facelift.
So, DiRusso and Senada, 38, watched videos on how to make specialty cakes and slowly introduced those to the store. For decades, the bakery was known for its cream pies, but they wanted to offer more.
DiRusso noted people in the Bronx often had to travel to the city to find a specialty-layered cake. Now, with their new approach, they changed the game in the area.
“We wanted to figure out how to take it to the next level,” DiRusso said.
Since taking over, the place has become their second home and often they are there when the sun rises and goes down. They have increased catering and ultimately, the bakery is a labor of love.
Their goal is to make their customers happy. Whether its gluten free food or just getting the order correct, everything is important, they stressed.
“We took what was here and we kind of just beautified it,” DiRusso said. “We spend more time here than we do at home.”
“We have a great dynamic,” Senada added.