Ben Borgognone has baking embedded in his DNA.
“I learned what I knew about baking from my father,” the chef said. “I had a lot of on-the-job training, a whole family tree.”
Borgognone’s father owned the Italian bakery Alba in Brooklyn for years, and as a young child he worked around the shop, decorating cakes and baking pastries by the time he was in high school.
Upon going to college, he studied hotel and restaurant management at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, but returned to his craft later on, earning a position as an assistant pastry chef in Manhattan at the Plaza Hotel.
“I really fell in love with all the French pastries they did there. That was where I found my passion,” Borgognone said.
Shortly after leaving management, Borgognone took over as owner of the Long Island-based chain Buttercooky Bakery. The bakery’s first location was established in 1962 in Floral Park, and was purchased by Borgognone and his wife in 1995. Two more locations have since opened under his tenure, with the Manhasset spot opening its doors in 2005.
Among the first actions Borgognone took after buying the shop was adding some of his own tricks and treats to the original shop’s style.
“The first Buttercooky Bakery was a German shop,” Borgognone said. “When I came in, I brought a lot of old-world Italian recipes when I came through, plus some more high-end boutique pastries.”
Borgognone also saw to it that Buttercooky would be one of the only bakeries that would use butter and heavy cream in all of its recipes, leading him to coin the bakery’s slogan: “Made with butter, makes it better.”
Inside its bakery case, Buttercooky offers house-made cakes, pies, cupcakes, cookies, breads and pastries of all varieties, in addition to offering custom cake design and specialty goods. About half are traditional favorites like marzipan candies, while the other half consists of modern delicacies like cake pops.
Borgognone says he loves all his creations, but his favorite to take home is a strawberry shortcake made with fresh whipped cream and berries.
A Manhasset resident himself, Borgognone decided to open a second location in 2005, when customers at his Floral Park location would request somewhere closer to their homes.
“We had a great response when we first opened,” Borgognone said. “Once I did open up, they responded very, very generously.”
The Manhasset location, formerly a religious speciality store, expanded in size five years ago, adding a cafe to its storefront and expanding its offerings to coffees, teas and lattes.
Additionally, Borgognone keeps the chain’s other locations in the family as well. The original Floral Park shop is now run by his son Ben Jr., while the new Huntington spot is operated by his son Francesco. Both sons, each of them a graduate of Manhasset High School, began in other fields, but like their father, gradually returned to baking as a profession.
“My family’s working hard,” Borgognone said. “And my boys and I appreciate the support we all get from our communities.”