More than a decade ago, Patti Tartaglia was diagnosed with Celiac disease, where the gluten found in various foods destroys the small intestine’s lining.
As such, she had to give up wheat, rye and barley, the foundation for numerous dishes.
The news was devastating for Tartaglia, who was known for making artisan bread as a hobby.
Tartaglia, who had recently left her career in the pharmaceutical sales industry to raise her children, was looking for ways to combine her love of baking and science. She decided to enroll at Bauman College, where she earned a certification in holistic nutritional education, and set about starting a business that would help others cook healthier.
Now, after countless gluten-free batches of bread, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, pie crusts and more that have been enjoyed by numerous people across the region, Tartaglia is retiring, and closing her bakery, Patti’s Perfect Pantry in the Vineyard Town Center in Morgan Hill.
Although her fans are disappointed, Tartaglia, 64, will still be a force in the growing gluten-free world. She plans on writing a cookbook featuring all the recipes from the Pantry, and will also start a dry mix business and host online cooking lessons.
“I need to be moving around and keeping busy,” she said. “I cannot let my customers down.”
Shortly after receiving her certification, Tartaglia started her first business, The Food Fixx, where she taught people how to cook using their own equipment at home. Many of her clients had medical conditions and food allergies, and Tartaglia taught them how to substitute ingredients to meet their dietary needs.
She eventually met Mike Monroe, the now-retired owner of the People and Planet Store, who gave her a part-time job selling her baked gluten-free goods.
When one customer tried her gluten-free pie, she was in tears. The customer, also suffering from Celiac disease, said she hadn’t had pie in years, and told Tartaglia she would pay her to make pie crusts for Thanksgiving.
That moment marked the beginning of Patti’s Perfect Pantry.
In the early days, Tartaglia rented kitchen space at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center, where she continued to sell her products at People and Planet Store, as well as at Hilltop Market in Morgan Hill and various other businesses in Gilroy and Santa Cruz County.
She later took over a shop on First Street in Gilroy in 2012, and two years later, the growing business moved to the Vineyard Town Center in Morgan Hill, undergoing a six-month renovation to bring the neglected spot back to life.
The whimsical bakery takes on an “Alice in Wonderland” theme, which Tartaglia says is fitting for the science of gluten-free baking.
“If you try to bake gluten-free like traditional baking, you’ll fail every time,” she said. “You have to go down the rabbit hole because nothing makes sense.
“I wanted to build a space where people could escape from the troubles of the world and feel they were cared about and loved.”
Tartaglia says she bakes the foods that people miss the most when they give up gluten, such as pizza, cupcakes, scones, pie crust and more.
The gluten-free industry is relatively new, and growing in demand. Patti’s Perfect Pantry attracts many people from as far away as Fresno and Sacramento, and up-and-down the Silicon Valley, stocking up on goods with monthly visits. The shop even has a large following of customers who can eat gluten, Tartaglia noted.
The bakery was recognized as the best hidden gem restaurant in Morgan Hill by SF Gate, and was selected by Senator Bill Monning as the 2015 Small Business of the Year.
Patti’s Perfect Pantry will stop baking on Feb. 26, and will be selling off its equipment and supplies throughout March.
“To all my wonderful customers, I want you all to know that you will always have my deepest thoughts and I will greatly miss you when I go,” Tartaglia said. “Thank you with all my heart.”
Tartaglia will be posting updates on her cookbook on Facebook at facebook.com/PattisPerfectPantry.