ENCINITAS — 2Good2B Bakery & Café debuted last month, taking over the space previously occupied by It’s A Grind on El Camino Real.
Partners Mike Barbanti and Diana Mourato Benedek established the business in response to the increasing number of Americans with food allergies.
“I want this to be a safe haven for people with all allergies including gluten, corn, soy, peanuts,” Barbanti said.
The cafe had a soft opening, serving breakfast sandwiches made with rosemary or herb d’Provence panini, waffles, and organic coffee, tea and fresh-squeezed orange juice. The onsite bakery offers cookies, cupcakes, brownies, muffins and custom cakes including wedding cakes.
The complete menu will roll out over the next few months and inlude bakery and comfort foods, both dine-in and take-out, such as chicken pot pie, macaroni and cheese, and pizza.
Barbanti says his No. 1 priority is serving up excellent food.
“This won’t just be for the one child in the family who has food allergies,” he said. “It will be for the whole family without compromise. If I don’t hear, ‘This is the best carrot cake’ or ‘sandwich’ from the average Joe without gluten-free issues, then I haven’t done my job.”
Barbanti admits to being a lifelong foodie who was in denial for years about having Celiac Disease, even though it runs in his family.
“My dad was half Italian and loved his pasta,” he remembers. “My mom is a great cook and always had a bowl of pasta in the refrigerator.”
Although his dad had ulcers, and drank Maalox five out of six days a week, Barbanti thought, “That’s what adults do.”
His father died in 2005 of colon cancer. His sister was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at 12. A colonoscopy performed on his brother at the age of 35 revealed polyps, something his physicians told him was unusual for a young man.
Even though he’s worked as a personal trainer for 10 years, Barbanti said he tried to ignore his own symptoms which include bloating, stabbing pains in the stomach and intestinal discomfort.
He said he tried to fake it, but couldn’t resist the cravings.
“I would cheat and feel lousy and continue to lie to myself,” he said. He credits his partner with conducting an intervention, like an alcoholic, telling him he needed to get tested. Three years ago, at 38, Barbanti was diagnosed with IBS.
“For me, personally, when I got off gluten, the crazy cravings diminished greatly,” he said. “Most of all, the obsession is gone. Although he still has Celiac Disease after giving up gluten, his IBS symptoms disappeared.
Barbanti took it to the next level and started an on-line, gluten-free bakery. One of his regular customers was Diana Mourato Benedek, an environmental engineer.
Benedek approached him last November about going into a partnership in a bakery and café, with the goal of taking it nationally.
“We have saved our lives by stopping the consumption of gluten products and are frustrated by how little is understood by the food allergy problems,” she said. “I want to spread the information about how you can be healthier and, in some cases, less sick by eating foods that are allergy friendly.”
She explained that gluten, corn and soy are three big culprits of many autoimmune diseases and other common chronic pains identified by modern medicine as fibromyagia. Rather than a disease, Benedek said they are an accumulation of symptoms.
“I was lucky enough to have professionals help me find my problems and can now live a healthy life and, thanks to Mike, a delicious one, too!” she said.
Barbanti retained former It’s A Grind employees for the new venture including manager Luis Arrizon.
“It’s true about the economy,” Arrizon said. “Small business owners like Mike are what creates jobs in the community. I am not gluten-free myself, but Mike’s cupcakes are amazing. I had a customer come in and buy 50!”
Bernardo Faraco is one of the new employees added to the staff.
“I have a friend with a gluten allergy,” he said. “When she came here she savored each bite as long as she could because it’s something she normally can’t get.”
2Good2B Bakery and Café is located at 204 N. El Camino Real, Suite H. They can be reached at (760) 942-GOOD (4663). Their hours are Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.