November 7, 2017 > RudyÕs Donut House: fresh, family-made treats for five decades
RudyÕs Donut House: fresh, family-made treats for five decades
By David R. Newman
In an era where giant chains like Starbucks define the urban landscape, itÕs nice to see small, independent, mom nÕ pop businesses still putting up a fight. One such place is RudyÕs Donut House, located in the heart of downtown Castro Valley. Locals stop by in droves on their way to work, treating themselves to fried doughy goodness and a cup of joe.
This family-run breakfast stop has been a gathering place for the community since 1960, when a young Italian named Rudy Gatto decided to, literally, set up shop. A cook in the army, Rudy loved to cook. Says his daughter Angela, ÒIt made him happy when he could feed people.Ó She is now co-owner of the business, along with her two sisters Gina and Maria.
RudyÕs donut journey began when he bought a WinchellÕs franchise located inside a coop supermarket on Castro Valley Boulevard (across the street from the current location). Two years later, he moved his WinchellÕs franchise about a mile down the road, and in 1979 turned it into RudyÕs Donut House.
At the time, it was the only place in town that was open early. Says Angela, ÒThat was the place to go to get your coffee on your way to work. Everybody came in. Police officers would come in in the middle of the night, get their coffee, and put their money down on the cash register.Ó
When his daughters started high school, they began helping out with the business, which had built up an incredible clientele. Says Angela, ÒAt that location, we had the highest volume donut shop in Northern California. It was big time. We sold so many donuts.Ó In 1985 they decided to close, but three years later were back when they noticed a building for sale. Next year will mark their 30th anniversary at this ÒnewÓ location.
Sadly, Rudy passed away 11 years ago, but his daughters still carry on the tradition. Says Angela, ÒI wasnÕt planning on it becoming my career, but it did, and itÕs been fun. Our customers are like our family. ItÕs like high school, when I couldnÕt wait to get to school to see my friends. ThatÕs what it feels like here. And of course, youÕre feeding them, so theyÕre usually really happy!Ó
RudyÕs Donut House is open seven days a week and maintains a staff of seven, with one of the sisters working the front on any given day. A baker comes in around 9 p.m. and makes donuts by hand, working through the night to prepare for their 4:30 a.m. opening. Says Angela, ÒEverything is made fresh daily. In fact, I think we have that on our sign.Ó They do.
The care with which they make their donuts is evident in their taste. Raised donuts start with dough that needs to rest before being rolled. The dough is then stamped individually, placed in a special resting box (the yeast in the dough makes them rise), then placed in a deep fryer, and finally put in a glazer, where hot glaze is poured over the top. Optionally they are dusted with powdered sugar.
Cake batter is injected through a circular template into the deep fryer to create cake donuts, then topped off with chocolate, maple, sprinkles, etc. Filled donuts are created by injecting a filling into the center, and filled bars by cutting them in half and adding the filling that way. Flavors include raspberry jelly, lemon, custard, and cream.
At RudyÕs, you can find donut holes, French crullers, cinnamon rolls, muffins, and croissants. Says Gina, ÒPeople come from all over for our apple fritters. They also love our bear claws, with almond paste inside.Ó Other popular items include basic glazed, cake, and old fashioned.donuts.
Rudy developed most of his recipes while working for WinchellÕs. Says Angela, ÒHe would make one called a butterfly, which was a type of cinnamon roll rolled in cinnamon sugar, and bow ties, which were like chocolate or maple bars. Also, one called a rosette, where he would cut up a cinnamon roll and add fruit to it.Ó
RudyÕs Donut Shop has become a Castro Valley institution, primarily through word of mouth. Says Angela, ÒTo this day we have customers in their 80s and 90s who come in and they still remember our dad. We really have a following, and thatÕs one of the reasons weÕve been able to hang on.Ó And they donÕt plan on stopping anytime soon.
RudyÕs Donut House
Daily: 4:30 a.m. Ð 3:00 p.m.
3692 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley