My first hint that a change was coming to the Prunedale Shopping Center happened a little more than a month ago, when I stopped by the panaderia (Mexican bakery) next to my gym. Several young men were sitting at one of the tables, talking intently. I discovered that the panaderia would soon become a French bakery and café.
Over the next month, the space was converted into Provence Bakery, a little piece of southern France. Its walls were painted in warm colors, two potted olive trees were placed out front, bread loaves and baguettes appeared on the shelves and the cold case displayed a lovely, changing array of desserts, including fruit tarts, tiramisu, éclairs and small cakes.
More importantly, the food is wonderful—and well worth the trip from Watsonville to Prunedale. I began stopping by for an occasional treat, as there is always something new on the counter. One day it might be crunchy macarons (a wispy light, French style confection); another day it will be an apple crumble with fruit and a creamy custard inside.
The new owners are brothers, Greg and Guillaume D’Angio, from the port city of Marseille, in Provence. Their arrival in Prunedale was preceded by what was for them an epic adventure. Both had studied for 10 years in the famed L'Ecole de Cuisine of Alain Ducasse in Paris. Guillaume became a pastry cook and chef; Greg became a chocolatier, who creates sugar art.
They arrived in Monterey in 2006 and found work at the Paris Bakery. As sometimes happens in kitchens, it was not a perfect match. The two brothers soon found themselves preparing to return to France. First, however, they participated in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Wine Festival and had great success selling their pastries and confections. Back in France, the vision of that success stayed with them, and they were determined to return and open their own cafe. As it turned out, that café would be in Prunedale.
At the Provence Bakery this morning, I ordered a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs with spinach and tomato ($4.50), a chocolate croissant and herbal tea. Guillaume both cooked and served my meal. American-style scrambled eggs tend to be on the dry side (often moistened with cheese), accompanied by heavily fried potatoes or grits. Guillaume’s scrambled eggs, on the other hand, were served a la carte, artfully arranged on the plate. Soft-scrambled, the texture was light and creamy, blending nicely with the tomato and spinach. Lightly salted, they tasted like eggs should—no Tabasco sauce needed. The chocolate croissant was light and crisp, not at all greasy or sugary; the chocolate added a bit of dark sweetness that was not overpowering.
For lunch, you can order a daily special (recently this was salmon pasta); there are several types of quiche: ham and cheese, spinach or tuna and tomatoes; and there is soup du jour or salad with a half baguette (made in-house) or pizza. The D’Angio brothers make all of the food themselves—from entrees to desserts—and buy fresh from local farms and farmers markets. They have also started teaching cooking classes locally.
The bakery and cafe is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., although, as Greg told me, they often begin their days in the kitchen at 2 a.m. This summer, the brothers plan to open another bakery in downtown Monterey and will add artisanal ice cream to their menu. Last January, Greg finally found his “perfect match” when he met his wife-to-be, Bianca, in a local restaurant. I wish them all the best of luck.
8051 San Miguel Canyon Rd. at the Prunedale Shopping Center. Hours: 6 a.m.—6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. 831-233-4493. email@example.com