Arts & Life

This Long Beach panadería is making waves in the baking world

As you walk down Retro Row on 4th Street, it’s hard to ignore the tantalizing smell wafting from Gusto Bread. The tangy, sweet notes of freshly baked goods hang thickly in the air and the homey decor, coupled with muted yellow and brown accents against off-white walls, invites visitors into the artisanal panadería.

Medina showers the dough with flour to prevent is from sticking during the shaping process.
Medina showers the dough with flour to prevent it from sticking during the shaping process. Photo credit: Mark Siquig

What once started as a cottage bakery has transformed into a beloved brick-and-mortar storefront. The widely acclaimed business has become a Long Beach staple born from the passions of self-taught baker Arturo Enciso, and his longtime partner Ana Belén Salatino, who oversees the administration of the bakery.

Unsure of where his life was headed in 2013, Enciso says that he stumbled upon bread-making by chance and immediately fell in love. After becoming enamored with a rustic outdoor oven at his then apartment, he felt determined to learn everything about the history of bread and how to use his new gadget.

“It was sort of like this bond I had with the oven,” Enciso laughed.

As his fascination grew, Enciso had a burning desire to understand the significance of bread and its deep connection to humanity.

“I think what I love about it is that it’s so ancient. It represents civilization and society and it’s so symbolic of humanity,” Enciso said.

Inspired by Richard Miscovich’s “From the Wood-Fired Oven” and his travels abroad, Enciso began perfecting his craft, researching everything he could about bread and spending countless hours making it.

In the summer of 2017, Enciso and Salatino began selling bread and eventually pastries out of their cottage home, while word of mouth spread quickly about the delicious baked goods that were sold out of a quaint two-story home in Long Beach. Three years into their journey, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple outgrew their at-home business and began the process of opening a storefront.

With the support of the Long Beach community, Enciso and Salatino raised funds to design Gusto Bread’s kitchen to their exact specifications.

While the menu once consisted of just sourdough loaves and galettes, it has now expanded into a variety of pan dulce and original creations. Enciso said that it began one October when he had the idea of offering Pan de Muerto, a traditional Mexican sweet bread baked during the weeks leading up to Día de los Muertos.

As a first-generation Mexican American, Enciso felt a sense of joy to see the smiles on his parents’ faces as they bit into the Pan de Muerto. He then became inspired to begin experimenting with the breads that he grew up eating.

The shaped dough that is ready to go is placed on a rack before it moves on to the next step.
The shaped dough is placed on a rack before it moves on to the next step. Photo credit: Mark Siquig

“Through my lens as a Chicano here, having the connection I did to sourdough baking, I just try to apply familiar breads to me that I grew up with that could contribute back to our culture,” Enciso said.

As Gusto Bread has continued to expand, Enciso has come to view his baking as a tangible representation of his Chicano identity, an amalgamation of sorts between the two worlds he was born into.

The Nixtamal Queen – a popular pan dulce that has become a focal point of Gusto Bread’s menu – is a perfect example of this. The pastry was created as Enciso was simultaneously learning about the nixtamalization process and the kouign-amann. He wondered what it would be like if he used masa for laminated dough and thus, the Nixtamal Queen was born.

The success of the Nixtamal Queen led to the bakery offering more pastries, eventually leading to their concha made with sourdough.

“Bread is so much more than what our culture tries to limit it to be,” Enciso said.

He explained that using a sourdough starter instead of a yeast starter gives bread a distinctive flavor due to the different lactic acids that form from the combination of yeast and bacteria. He added that sourdough starter and nixtamalized corn, or masa, are more nutrient dense, something that is important to both him and Salatino.

Sourcing a majority of their ingredients locally, Gusto Bread thoughtfully selects their oil, fruit, flour, grain, eggs and more to serve their customers the highest quality products available while also supporting the Long Beach community.

Dakota Quinn and Carlos Medina were tasked to shape the dough before baking and serving when the bakery opens on Wednesdays.
Dakota Quinn and Carlos Medina were tasked with shaping the dough Tuesday morning before baking and serving the goods on Wednesday. Photo credit: Mark Siquig

“Long Beach is my home … All these people that I met along the way, they’re the ones who first supported me. I’m honored,” Enciso said.

With their unique approach to baking, Gusto Bread has continued to make a name for itself beyond Long Beach, even garnering a nomination for Outstanding Bakery from the James Beard Foundation.

They have recently expanded their business to include a coffee program and remain dedicated to providing an inviting and a delicious environment for their customers.

Gusto Bread is located at 2710 E. 4th Street in Long Beach. Their hours of operation are from Wednesday to Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.


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