Nestled in Wayland Square’s bustling food scene sits an unassuming, white-painted cafe. But take one look — and bite — inside Madrid European Bakery and Patisserie, and you won’t be disappointed. Operated by Spanish baker Sergio Mendoza, Madrid is home to some of Providence’s most decadent European pastries and coffees.
The sweet smell of dough and butter fills the brightly lit bake shop. As visitors walk in, they’re greeted by a glass display case stacked with Mendoza’s creations: tartas de Santiago, creme puffs, palmeras. The baker himself can be seen milling about — garnishing sweets and chatting to customers — while his mother-in-law, Adriana Munoz, helps behind the counter.
The cafe is a family affair. “I learned (to bake) the old fashioned way — by apprenticing at my father’s bakeries,” Mendoza wrote in an email to The Herald. “Part of the agreement when my father hired master pastry chefs was that they would teach his sons all the art of baking and pastry.” In Spain, Mendoza climbed the ranks quickly, moving from dish boy to manager before coming to the United States to become the owner of a flagship store. He opened Madrid’s current location with the help of his wife, Hercilia Corona, and Munoz, hopeful that he could bring a little piece of his home to the United States.
“From the decor to every pastry and dessert we serve, we wanted to recreate what a bakery back home might feel like. In line with this, we also focus on preparing our food all on-site and using traditional artisanal methods,” Mendoza wrote. “Everything you eat tastes like it would have 50 years ago in Spain.”
Sitting at a back-corner table of Madrid’s dining room, Sydney Fisher ’23 spoke with The Herald about her love for the cafe. “I didn’t know this place existed until one of my friends who used to come a lot with his mom brought me here,” Fisher said. “I love studying off campus, just because sometimes it’s nice to get away from Brown, get away from the campus and just isolate and focus on studying.” An avid coffee and cream-puff fan, she says Madrid is now on her list of College Hill must-trys.
“Folks have become regulars and friends,” Mendoza wrote. The family moved to Rhode Island solely to pursue growing the bakery. They previously had a location in Massachusetts, but they fell in love with Providence and its college-town atmosphere.
“When we moved here and opened last year, the community was so nice to us,” Munoz said. “They said there’s nothing in Rhode Island like this.”
Despite its success, Madrid has still had to navigate its fair share of challenges presented by the pandemic. The family signed off on their lease in January 2020 before the pandemic hit and had to figure out the logistics of both moving to a new state and opening a new store amid a global shutdown. The store launched in September 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was very troubling initially,” Mendoza wrote of the process. “We had to make the difficult choice between moving forward with the project and hoping for the best or cancelling our plans altogether.” Mendoza and his family took the risk and pushed ahead. The gamble, he believes, has more than paid off. “It was a tenuous time, but customers slowly found us and supported us through that challenging chapter.”
Now, running at full capacity, Madrid is looking toward the future. “We hope to ... continue holding steady with our in-house production of artisanal products. There are also hopes of expanding our already full coffee/espresso menu and getting a little creative,” Munoz said.
After a trying year, customers are itching to get back to indoor dining and the traditional bakery experience. Whenever they’re ready, Mendoza and his team at Madrid will be there to welcome them with open arms.