As if the doughnuts at Danny’s weren’t enough, a new bakery is coming to the midtown Gainesville area later this summer serving sweet and savory breads and pastries.
“We’ve got great plans,” Velez said.
Diletto’s specialty will be sweet breads, stuffed with fruit or cheese, but they’ll also serve baguettes, cinnamon buns, cheesecake and bagels along with many more items made fresh every day. Velez plans to have bakers at the shop around 4 a.m. and open around 6 a.m. each day so when customers visit, they can expect the freshest, and oftentimes hottest, breads around.
The bakery will be as much a cafe as take-out retail shop. The exposed brick wall as customers walk in will have a bar top with stools. Metal chairs with wooden tables will be spread throughout the rest of the shop with a bench lining one of the walls. In the back, they’ll have a couch and more chairs.
There will be a shelf stocked with breads packaged for purchase, as well as a refrigerated pastry case and dry pastry case.
His vision is to have an international-type bakery with options from across the world.
He crosses ethnic grounds, he crosses some of those ethnic lines. He just puts it in the pot and what comes out is tremendous. He has hit on something that I think is just going to be a big win for everybody.Rod Bell, an early fan of Diletto
“The product has been well-accepted and we want to just focus on something different,” Velez said. “We want to bring flavors from different nations, kind of study where they come from and put a little touch on it.”
Velez grew up in a bakery. His father, Javier, owned one, Merca Plus, for years in his home country of Colombia. Velez wanted to stay far away from the long and early hours of a baker, so he fought it for years.
“I never wanted that to be part of my life, so I had a full-time corporate job making a really decent income,” Velez said.
But a couple years ago, he and his wife began doing ministry work full time. They found themselves baking for summer camps and youth camps “just for the fun of it” until people started suggesting they open up a brick-and-mortar shop.
“We started making and baking and giving it to people to try out the market,” Velez said. “We started from home, just to see how the market would react, and that’s when we saw that people liked it.”
They rented space in a shared kitchen in Chamblee and started selling in a few small stores. The couple’s breads have also turned up at the Gainesville Farmers Market. Now, with the support of his family, friends and the community, Velez will have his own kitchen in midtown Gainesville.
One of Velez’s taste-testers, and a longtime supporter, was Rod Bell, a pastor at Maranatha Christian Academy. Bell said he’s always enjoyed what he’s tried from Velez and is excited that he’ll have an actual shop now.
“I’m happy for them,” Bell said. “They are people that are really what we’re all about, and what America is about. Finding their way and starting it from scratch, making things from scratch and putting it together and seeing it grow.”
Bell said he thinks the bakery will be successful because of the international aspect Velez is hoping to bring.
“He crosses ethnic grounds, he crosses some of those ethnic lines,” Bell said. “He just puts it in the pot and what comes out is tremendous. He has hit on something that I think is just going to be a big win for everybody.”
One of the other reasons Bell feels Velez will be successful is his willingness to try new things. Bell was the one who gave Velez the idea of making a bread with cheese and pepperoni with a dipping sauce. Turns out, that’s been one of the best sellers.
There was another time that a customer who was pregnant was craving guava and cheese, so Velez stuffed a bread with that and it sells well, too.
“We like to listen to people, sometimes they tell us ideas,” Velez said. “So why not just try it?”
Velez has gone through a lot of trial and error to get just the right recipe for his breads. He said it’s a hard thing to do, but he’s had plenty of reaction from people who say the bread tastes “just like home.”
He’s had a good mentor. His father, although he doesn’t bake anymore, managed to open three different bakeries in Colombia and supplied breads for about 50 stores in his prime. Any time Velez has a question, his father is just a phone call away.
Velez even took a trip back to Colombia for a crash course from an experienced baker his father knows when the idea of a brick-and-mortar shop first came about.
“I flew to Colombia and I did a two-week, intense course, literally hands on,” Velez said.
Once he got those recipes down, he was able to start expanding with other recipes. He said Diletto will have vegan options and gluten-free options, both of which he hopes to broaden in the future. And of course, “we have all the carbs for everyone,” he said, laughing.
“We want to make it not just one culture,” Velez said. “We want to make it an atmosphere for everyone to enjoy … There's going to be something for everyone.”