Claudia Gamoneda spends most days of the week at her family’s restaurant. From the early hours before Monona Bakery & Eatery opens until late in the evening after the doors close, Gamoneda acts as manager, helping to keep the business going for 5 years. It’s truly a family collaboration, with Gamoneda’s mother, Claudia L. Gamoneda (whose name is identical to hers except for the middle initial), her father, Vicente Sacramento, and her sister Wendy in the kitchen and the restaurant upstairs. Aunts and cousins also help out when needed.
Claudia Gamoneda’s parents opened Monona Bakery & Eatery at her Monona Drive location in February 2017. Latin American cuisine inspiration and recipes come from Gamoneda’s father’s upbringing in Mexico and her Honduran roots. mother. When fate brought the couple together in Madison, opening a restaurant was initially not part of the plan. Gamoneda’s mother had no previous experience in the food industry, and while Sacramento had some, it had been years since he owned his own business. Yet, slowly but surely, the two brought the vision to life. “They are extremely hard-working people,” says Gamoneda. “I look up to them every day just because they’re really amazing.”
Sacramento has worked full-time at Monona Bakery & Eatery since the beginning. Gamoneda and her mother, who both worked at University Hospital, started taking fewer hours so they could help out in the restaurant. Eventually, they both left the hospital to work full-time at Monona Bakery & Eatery. “Now we’re all on deck here,” she said.
Customers will find cafe and breakfast items like pancakes, French onion soup and BLT among Monona Bakery & Eatery’s offerings. But it’s the separate Honduran and Mexican menus—plus a full bakery—that make this business stand out. “It wasn’t even in the cards, not originally,” Gamoneda says. “And now we’re here, and it’s fun, it’s hard, it’s tiring, but I think it’s worth it.”
Three dishes to try
Although pupusas are native to El Salvador, you will find five varieties on the Honduran menu. Gamoneda explains that the recipe for stuffed corn tortillas has crossed the Salvadoran border and that they are also popular in Honduras. Among the combinations on offer is a pupusa filled with cheese and loroco, a type of small flower that is shipped from Honduras.
For Monona Bakery & Eatery’s mole sauce, Sacramento started with an old recipe he had from his home in Mexico and tweaked it until it hit spicy-sweet perfection. Authentic Mole is made with rich chocolate, various nuts and peppers for warmth. Gamoneda says you can taste the two separate ingredients in his father’s zero recipe. Served over your favorite enchilada, it’s a dish the family likes to recommend to guests.
Baleada, a crowd-pleasing Honduran, is a mix of refried beans, avocado, cheese, scrambled eggs and cream on homemade flour tortillas. While the family tries to keep things as authentic as possible, Gamoneda says this is a simpler version compared to many baleadas served in Honduras. “There are a bunch of different varieties,” she says. “They’re huge, like the size of a burrito basically, and they put meat in them.”
Cooking his way
Vicente Sacramento started baking at age 16 when a local bakery he frequented in Mexico offered him a job. Now he does everything in-house and from scratch using his own recipes. While Monona Bakery & Eatery offers three cases filled daily with fresh baked goods, cakes (especially very leches, pictured) are Sacramento’s specialty. “He puts a lot of love into it,” says Sacramento daughter Claudia Gamoneda. “And I think you can taste it.” Since customers often ask for recipes, the owners held baking and cooking classes at the restaurant once a month before the pandemic, and they recently brought the classes back in January.
Monona bakery and restaurant: 4544 Monona Drive, 608-283-9987, mononabakeryeatery.com
Hannah Twietmeyer is a staff writer for Madison Magazine.
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