Baked goods and Latin American dishes shine at Monona Bakery & Eatery

Inspiration and recipes for the Latin American fare come from Gamoneda’s father’s upbringing in Mexico and her mother’s Honduran roots.
Monona Bakery
Photo by Sharon Vanorny
Claudia Gamoneda (right) with her parents

Claudia Gamoneda spends nearly every day of the week at her family’s restaurant. From the early hours before Monona Bakery & Eatery opens to late in the evening after the doors close, Gamoneda acts as the manager, helping keep the 5-year-old business operating. 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 out on the floor of the restaurant. Aunts and cousins help out when needed, too.

Claudia Gamoneda’s parents opened Monona Bakery & Eatery at its Monona Drive location in February 2017. Inspiration and recipes for the Latin American fare come from Gamoneda’s father’s upbringing in Mexico and her mother’s Honduran roots. When fate led the pair to meet in Madison, opening a restaurant wasn’t initially part of the plan. Gamoneda’s mom didn’t have any prior experience in the food industry, and while Sacramento did, it had been years since he owned his own business. Still, slowly but surely, the two brought the vision to life. “They’re extremely hardworking people,” Gamoneda says. “I look up to them every single day just because of how incredible they really are.”

Sacramento worked full time at Monona Bakery & Eatery from the beginning. Gamoneda and her mother, who both worked at University Hospital, started taking fewer hours so they could help out with the restaurant. Eventually, they both quit the hospital to work full time at Monona Bakery & Eatery. “Now we’re all hands on deck in here,” she says.

Customers will find cafe and breakfast fare like pancakes, French onion soup and a BLT among Monona Bakery & Eatery’s offerings. But it is the separate Honduran and Mexican menus — in addition to a full bakery — that make this business stand out. “This wasn’t even in the cards, not originally,” Gamoneda says. “And now we’re here, and it’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s tiring, but I think it’s worth it.”

Three Dishes to Try

Pupusas

pupusas at Monona Bakery

Photo by Sharon Vanorny

Though pupusas originated in El Salvador, you’ll find five varieties on the Honduran menu. Gamoneda explains that the recipe for the stuffed corn tortillas crossed the El Salvador border and they are enjoyed in Honduras as well. Among the combinations offered is a pupusa filled with cheese and loroco, a type of small flower that is shipped from Honduras.

Enchiladas de Mole

mole dish from Monona Bakery

Photo by Sharon Vanorny

For Monona Bakery & Eatery’s mole sauce, Sacramento started with an old recipe he had from home in Mexico and tweaked it until it reached spicy-sweet perfection. Authentic mole is made from rich chocolate, various tree nuts and peppers for heat. Gamoneda says you can taste both distinct ingredients in her father’s from-scratch recipe. Served over your favorite enchilada, this is a dish the family likes to recommend to customers.

Baleada

baleada

Photo by Sharon Vanorny

Baleada, a Honduran crowd-pleaser, is a mixture of refried beans, avocado, cheese, scrambled eggs and cream on house-made flour tortillas. While the family tries to keep things as authentic as they can, Gamoneda says that this is a simpler version compared to many of the baleadas served back 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.”

Baking His Way

tres leches cake

Photo by Sharon Vanorny

Vicente Sacramento started baking at 16 when a local bakeshop he frequented in Mexico offered him a job. Now he makes everything in-house and from scratch using his own recipes. While Monona Bakery & Eatery boasts three cases stocked daily with fresh baked goods, cakes (especially très leches, pictured) are Sacramento’s specialty. “He puts a lot of love into it,” says Sacramento’s daughter, Claudia Gamoneda. “And I think you can taste it.” Because customers often ask for recipes, the owners hosted baking and cooking classes at the restaurant once a month prior to the pandemic, and they recently brought back the classes in January.

Monona Bakery & Eatery: 4544 Monona Drive, 608-283-9987, mononabakeryeatery.com

Hannah Twietmeyer is a contributing writer to Madison Magazine.