Nine islands of Portugal are featured on the walls of Portuguese Tasty Desserts at 1085 El Camino Real (cross street: Main Street) in Santa Clara. The items here, made from family recipes, include delicious custard tarts (queijadas de nata) and coconut tarts (queijadas de coconut), soft and fluffy sweet breads and dinner rolls, melt-in-your-mouth meringue cookies (suspiros), and crispy malasadas, a Portuguese donut fried with sugar.
Also sold here are fragrant cinnamon loaves, often purchased to make French toast. Suitable for dunking in coffee, tea and milk are the store’s buttery Portuguese cookies (biscoitos), made in five flavors- cinnamon, lemon, vanilla, almond and anise. The store also carries Portuguese imports, including canned sardines, cheese, butter, olive oil and sodas.
“The Portuguese sweet bread is a bestseller. We slice our sweet bread for free,” said Teresa Defreitas, who owns Portuguese Tasty Desserts with her husband, Nelio. “People buy sweet breads for weddings and birthdays. The sweet bread is also widely consumed during Portuguese Fiestas.
“Our second bestseller is the Portuguese malasadas,” Defreitas continued. “We have a lot of Hawaiian customers who have asked for stuffed malasadas – we have these in passion fruit, strawberry and custard. We offer malasadas on Wednesdays and Saturdays only. During the Portuguese Carnival, which is similar to America’s Mardi Gras, people consume a lot of malasadas.”
When she was six-years-old, Defreitas and her family left Sao Miguel Azores, an island of Portugal, to live in Santa Clara, where Defreitas still lives today. At their new American home, Defreitas’s mother used to bake sweet bread for family and friends from a pizza oven out of the garage.
“In 1981, my parents decided to open a hole-in-the-wall bakery across the street from where we are at now,” Defreitas said. “My parents’ bakery was on the corner of El Camino Real and Main Street. But the City wanted to take the building down to add another lane on El Camino Real. So, we had to move. In 1986, we moved our bakery’s location to the Mervyn’s Plaza where Target is now.
“In 2000, my dad and my mom wanted to retire,” Defreitas continued. “My husband and I had small children so we passed on the opportunity to take over the business. So, my parents sold the business to another Portuguese couple. That bakery closed last year.”
Before opening Portuguese Tasty Desserts, Defreitas and her husband worked for the Santa Clara Unified School District for 21 years. Defreitas ran the kitchen at Washington Open Elementary School for 14 years. At Buchser Middle School, she was a kitchen supervisor for seven years.
Portuguese Tasty Desserts opened on Nov. 20, 2021.
“We offer a cup of coffee and a sample of our sweet bread to anyone who walks through our door,” said Defreitas, noting her customers are from a variety of backgrounds. “Sometimes my customers and I start talking to each other in Portuguese. Many of these people would tell me they haven’t spoken in Portuguese for years because there was no one they could speak Portuguese with. Now they come and we all speak Portuguese together. It is a beautiful thing.”