“The level of our quality is because we don’t change, and if the quality is not what it is supposed to be, I’ll throw it out,” Gus Isgro, owner of Isgro’s Bakery, 1009 Christian St., said while speaking on his establishment’s recent victory for South Philly’s best cakes, and that commitment to high quality products remains true whether selling confections to his local patrons or baking for the Holy Father himself.
The Bella Vista-situated bakery’s commitment to its craft may forgo optimal profit, but continuing to be a perennial Readers’ Choice award winner and a long-standing institution throughout the Philadelphia area definitely soothes the sacrifice in bottom-line.
“Theodore Roosevelt was president when we start doing business, (so) you got to be doing something right. We are not perfect but I strive to be perfect. That’s the way I am. Sometimes my help doesn’t agree with me; they say ‘your profits aren’t what they should be,’ but It’s not about profits. It’s about high quality,” the long-time owner said.
Isgro’s fantastic cake assortment ranges from the colorful Rainbow Tort to the chocolatey decadence of the Brown Derby Cake, and while its diverse selection delights the collective taste buds of South Philadelphians, its signature dessert and bestseller, the Italian Rum Cake, holds a special place on the Southside with a recipe that has been perfected over several generations that also differs from the norm.
“We make our Italian Rum Cake with vanilla and ricotta; everybody else makes it with vanilla and chocolate. We make it that way because that’s the way my grandfather taught me,” the award-winning baker, whose roots trace him back to the upstairs apartment above his life’s work, said.
The kind of quality Isgro’s continues to reach has led to a national following and even international renown, as the workers were contacted by the Vatican to make the Pope’s favorite desserts during the World Meeting of Families.
Termini’s bakery cooked up second honors for best cake, and Potito’s took third place. — J.F.