A tree-lined, mile-long stretch of Penfield Road passes an entrance for Corbett’s Glen Nature Park in Brighton, a trailhead for Ellison Park and the hundred-year-old Gentle’s Farm Market in Penfield before it dips down to a commercial area that’s anchored by Panorama Plaza.
For years, an integral part of the charming neighborhood was Bernunzio’s Deli and Bakery, 745 Penfield Road. Neighbors would visit for cold cuts, a sandwich and their famous meatball cookies. On nice days, customers would enjoy their food at picnic tables on the large lawn that faces Colonial Village Road.
Jenna Morgante grew up in the neighborhood, and she and her husband, Pete Morgante, returned when it came time to raise their family.
“Growing up, I used to come to the old Bernunzio’s the whole time,” she said.
It had been a dream of hers since high school to own a neighborhood coffee shop, so when space became available, the Morgantes, along with Dan and Jess Garcia, jumped at the opportunity. The four have been friends since their high school days at The Charles Finney School.
They opened Tree Town Café, a cozy coffee shop that serves baked goods as well as breakfast and lunch fare. The space has been renovated to give it a current look as well as indoor seating.
Breakfast sandwiches are popular, and range from the classic egg and cheese on a hard roll ($3.50) to The Jam ($7.50), which has egg, avocado, hot pepper jam, arugula and feta cheese on sourdough. Lunches bring sandwiches ($5.50 to $7.50) and salads ($7). It also has a full coffee bar, including espresso drinks.
Baked goods are baked in-house (some from Bernunzio’s recipes), or purchased from local bakeries. Ice cream will be added on June 1.
Local sourcing is a priority; among their suppliers are Balsam Bagels; Fiz sodas; The Chai Guy; Evening Star Coffee Roasters; and Amazing Grains Bread Co.
The name of the café was suggested by their four-year-old son, Jenna Morgante said. When they researched the name, they found that trees are an important part of Brighton’s identity; has been a designated Tree City USA through the Arbor Day Foundation since 2003.
“We’re so excited,” Jenna Morgante said. “There’s such a history here.”
Although it is nestled in a residential area, the building was home to commercial enterprises for decades. Before Bernunzio’s, it was home to DiCrasto Dairy from the 1950s (and possibly earlier) and into the 1980s. After Bernunzio’s closed in 2015, the owners of Chef’s Catering ran Chef’s Kitchen and Bakery beginning in September of 2016.
Given its proximity to homes, it’s not a surprise that its history has been punctuated by issues with neighbors dating back to 1962, when residents objected when the DiCrastos asked for permission to sell beer. Neighbors also complained about trucks at Bernunzio’s and battled Chef’s Catering’s proposal to expand its conditional use permit. They expressed concerns when Tree Town Café was proposed.
But now that the business has opened, the Morgantes say they have felt welcomed by the neighborhood, even by some of the folks who initially opposed the business.
“It’s a 20-year dream come true,” Jenna Morgante said.
If you go
The Tree Town Cafe is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Beginning June 1 it will be open 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will add ice cream and family-friendly games on the lawn.
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