It’s hard not to notice the tall red and yellow neon sign on Kapahulu Avenue in Honolulu, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. A large arrow points to Hawaii’s longtime icon, Leonard’s Bakery, where lines wrap around the front and a mountain of malasadas – 8,500 of them – are sold every day. It became a Malasada landmark owned and operated by generations of Leonards.
Best eaten hot and fresh, the soft and fluffy Portuguese donut is coated with sugar and shaped round with no hole. No one knew when the bakery opened 70 years ago that malasadas would become so popular.
“The bakers didn’t want to do that,” Crystine Ito, marketing assistant at Leonard’s Bakery, told SFGATE. “They said it was very ethnic, very different, but they didn’t own the bakery.”
Portuguese immigrants brought malasada to Hawaii at a time when immigrant workers from all over the world were being hired to work in the sugar cane fields in the late 1800s, but Padaria Leonard was the first bakery to make the dessert sugary. widely available.
Leonard Rego was the grandson of Portuguese immigrants from the island of São Miguel in the Azores who were sent to Maui to work. Rego moved with his wife, Margaret, to Honolulu and worked as a manager at another bakery before opening his own. In 1952, he opened Leonard’s Bakery and then, needing a larger space, moved the bakery to its current location on Kapahulu Avenue in 1957, bringing the neon signs with him.
Selling breads and pastries, the bakery boasted “the finest baked goods” using natural ingredients from island eggs and fresh milk, unlike its competitors who used powdered eggs and milk.