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F or someone who spent her life exploring cooking, giving up gluten in 2008 was a difficult health choice for Patti Tartaglia. But turning her gluten-free lifestyle into a growing business that provides others with high- quality, flavorful products gives her a strong sense of satisfaction. Growing-Up Cooking Tartaglia grew up a latchkey kid in Connecticut, spending her afternoons watching Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet. “I was an overweight child, and my mother was a boring cook,” Tartaglia said. “As I got older, I experimented. I wanted to lose weight with flavorful food.” When she would babysit, she’d read other people’s cookbooks and write down recipes. She started working in restaurants at 16. “I became more of a foodie and would come home wide awake and start baking. My mother got mad because I gave it all away, so I wouldn’t eat it. But the ingredients were very expensive, so I started taking donations.” That was the beginnings of her baking business. Before she went to college, Tartaglia recalled, “My combined love of medicine and food led my mother to say I should go to Cornell and major in Home Economics. That was the 1970s. But I said, ‘No I have to do something important.’ She also wanted us to set up a muffin and waffle store. It’s funny how things go full circle.” Tartaglia worked in restaurants until she was 27. After completing a college degree in Biology she sold pharmaceuticals. She and her husband moved to Redwood City in 1992 and started a family. When her kids started school, a headhunter told her she had too much experience to get a job at her level. The Transition to Gluten-Free While job hunting, a good friend of hers had decided to go gluten free because of intestinal and other health problems, which Tartaglia herself was experiencing. It motivated her to eliminate gluten from her diet. “Within three weeks, it changed my life,” she said. But for someone who thrived on a lifetime of cooking, especially artisan breads and pizza, this discovery came with a sacrifice. Instead of bemoaning her situation, she decided to go back to school, studying the holistic side of nutrition to round out her education. After obtaining her Certificate in Nutrition Education, Tartaglia wanted to counsel people. But the economy was bad, and she couldn’t find enough clients on her own. Fortunately, she happened to meet the wife of the owner of People and Planet, the former Morgan Hill natural food store. At the time, they needed someone to counsel people about cooking healthy food and to bring in products for people to taste. Tartaglia began renting a local kitchen to test market the products she made for People and Planet and several wholesale markets in Aptos. When the rental kitchen was no longer available, she considered building her own kitchen but decided it would require too much time and expense. One day a client said, “Patti, we don’t want to learn to cook. Can you start making this stuff for us?” By that time, Tartaglia had realized she didn’t have the personality to be counselor; instead, she was a doer. The Bakery Is Born About that time, former bakery Penny Cakes in Gilroy —on First Street—was going out of business. Tartaglia opened Patti’s Perfect Pantry in that location in 2011. But the kitchen was only 300 square feet, so Tartaglia couldn’t generate enough product to make a living. After a while, she began to consider relocating. In general, she said, “The gluten-free business is a highly unsatisfied market where most of the products are bad.” She knew people would be will- ing to drive some distance to a more central location to buy it. “It just wasn’t the correct location to draw people down from San José.” When her Gilroy lease was up in 2015, she considered buying property in down- town Gilroy. But the current location in Morgan Hill became available at that time, with the added benefit of being close to the highway off Tennant Avenue. After six months of renovation to the existing bak- ery kitchen, she re-opened in 2016. Similar to the previous location, the new café offers more than the aver- age bakery. Decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme with framed posters bearing sayings such as, “Be Careful What You Drink,” the shop provides customers GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 a choice of lunch items and pastries— with indoor and outdoor seating—to enjoy their savory and sweet treats with gourmet beverages. Regular offerings include cupcakes, scones, cookies, cinnamon rolls, pizza, sandwiches, and daily lunch specials. Tartaglia has tried to create an environment appropriate to serving high quality, gourmet items. This year, she’s planning to offer afternoon tea menus featuring loose-leaf teas. As for the décor, her favorite character from child- hood was Alice in Wonderland. One day she looked up and saw her Mad Hatter teapot on her shelf and that provided the inspiration for the bakery’s theme. “I wanted it to be whimsical and fun—a place where the ladies could come in the afternoon and relax and talk with friends.” Her clientele is varied, with only a percentage who have celiac disease—the inability to digest and absorb gluten, which damages the intestines and prevents the absorption of nutrients. Most are gluten intolerant, while others have some autoimmune disorders and, according to Tartaglia, are eating gluten free to try to reduce inflammation. She also sells to numerous athletes who are trying to improve their performance. Many simply enjoy her American bakery- style products. She said she makes everything from scratch, thereby preventing any cross- contamination with gluten. “So, there are no chemicals or preservatives in our food.” Also, her sweet items contain one- half the sugar in other recipes. The Ups and Downs of Running a Small Business Tartaglia and her baking assistant, Melissa Peterson, do all the cooking. “I’m on my feet 12 hours a day, with barel