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CUSTOM quality and tile craftsmanship showcased with five-foot porcelain planks

CUSTOM products are the icing on the cake at Porto’s Bakery and Café in LA

Porto’s Bakery and Café is a Los Angeles institution with a devoted following among food lovers of all backgrounds. Over 25,000 square feet of tile was installed in the eatery’s expansion to Buena Park. 

Porto’s Bakery and Café is a Los Angeles institution with a devoted following among food lovers of all backgrounds. In 2016, Porto’s took the number one spot on “Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S.” for their decadently delicious and visually stunning food. Despite the acclaim, the Porto family wanted to grow business slowly to maintain their standard of quality. When they finally decided to expand to Buena Park, in nearby Orange County, CUSTOM products were chosen to install 25,000 square feet of tile. 

The work was executed by Custom Pro Tile and Stone of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., contractors specializing in high-end natural stone installations. The company has been in the industry for over 20 years and has used CUSTOM products during the entire time. This installation materials tradition includes the company’s meticulous tile work at the Porto’s location in West Covina, Calif. 

“We have used Custom Building Products for many years,” said Marco Emmert, Vice President of Custom Pro. “They are reliable, consistent, give great performance and the warranty that the company offers is the best in the market.”

A warm welcome is offered by the old world wood-look planks, deli-style mosaics and sunshine streaming through the windows.
The biggest challenge on the project was literally the 10”x59” porcelain planks that were set in striking herringbone and starburst patterns.

Hardworking tile assemblies

With a total of four service counters and lines of patrons often lining up all the way out the doors and down the block, the floor at Porto’s Bakery and Café needed hard-working, great looking flooring assemblies. A lot of the restaurant’s personality comes from the extensive use of tile large and small. The entire space is ultimately designed to showcase all of the artistically crafted food on display in the bakery. A warm welcome is offered by the old world wood-look planks, deli-style mosaics and sunshine streaming through the windows.

The biggest challenge on the project was literally the 10” x 59” porcelain planks that were set in striking herringbone and starburst patterns. This over-sized tile was set throughout the public spaces as well as the company’s offices and employee facilities on the second floor and even on the stairs. 

The initial layout took a couple of days to trace chalk lines and take levels. Fortunately, the concrete slab at the site was finished to perfection and did not require additional leveling to meet the flatness standard for large-format tile. Cutting the planks for all of the different configurations was intricate work and had to be done on a wet saw. Of course, setting such large tiles takes more time and skill than an equal square footage of smaller tiles. Exacting planning and very experienced installers allowed the tile contractors to deliver a flat, robust tiled surface.

CUSTOM’s VersaBond LFT Professional Large Format Tile Mortar was the product of choice to set the 5’ planks. 

Custom Pro’s partner in setting the 5’ planks was VersaBond®– LFT Professional Large Format Tile Mortar. VersaBond LFT is polymer-modified and designed for use with large-format and heavy porcelain, ceramic and natural stone tiles. With a non-slumping formula to help eliminate lippage, this mortar can be applied up to 3/4” thick on horizontal applications and exceeds ANSI A118.4 and A118.11.

“Ever since VersaBond LFT came out on the market, we have used it on a lot of our projects,” offered Emmert. “It is a great mortar for the large-format tiles, non-slumping and dense.”

In addition to using a mortar designed for bigger materials like the planks, installers employed the large-format tile setting methods shown in the well-known NTCA “Trowel & Error” training video. These techniques include keying a burn coat into the substrate, combing mortar in straight lines across the short side of the tile and back buttering. Once the tile is bedded, it is moved back and forth across the ridges to collapse them and release air, which can otherwise create voids and eventually cracks in the tile. View the video here: https://www.custombuildingproducts.com/reference-library/videos/trowel-and-error.aspx

A variety of both traditional and modern tile was installed on walls throughout the restaurant and also in the back of the house. These included quarry tile in the kitchen and glazed ceramics and porcelains of various sizes. ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar was used for these materials due to its outstanding performance on walls. ProLite offers a high bond strength and thixotropic performance to prevent sagging on vertical installations. 

Both traditional and modern tile was installed on walls throughout the restaurant and also in the back of the house, including quarry tile in the kitchen and glazed ceramics and porcelains of various sizes.

A side of grout

To meet the varying service conditions at the site, a total of four different CUSTOM grouts was employed. Most of the floor and wall tiles, from the highly textured wood-look planks to the deli-style mosaic mats, were grouted with PolyBlend® and Prism®. According to CUSTOM, polymer-modified PolyBlend is America’s Number One grout, and comes in sanded and non-sanded options, producing hard, dense joints that resist cracking and wear for extended durability. 

Prism Ultimate Performance Cement Grout is a calcium aluminate-based product that offers consistent color without mottling or shading and will not effloresce. Formulated with recycled content and fine aggregate sand, lightweight Prism delivers premium handling qualities and sets up rapidly for fast-track projects like hospitality and food service. 

Most of the floor and wall tiles, from the highly textured wood-look planks to the deli-style mosaic mats, were grouted with PolyBlend® and Prism®.
The glazed white tiles on kitchen walls were grouted with matching and contrasting Fusion Pro® Single Component® Grout.

“Prism was chosen primarily because of its color uniformity,” said Emmert. “We are substituting with or staying with Prism every chance we get.”

The glazed white tiles on kitchen walls were grouted with matching and contrasting Fusion Pro® Single Component® Grout. Fusion Pro is guaranteed stain proof and color perfect and helps to maintain a spick-and-span look where patrons can view bakers and decorators at their work. 

CEG®-Lite 100% Solids Commercial Epoxy Grout was used for quarry tiles on the kitchen floors where a high degree of chemical resistance was required.

CEG®-Lite 100% Solids Commercial Epoxy Grout was used for quarry tiles on the kitchen floors where a high degree of chemical resistance was required. 

ProLite, Prism and CEG-Lite are all Build Green® products featuring CustomLite® Technology, meet GreenGuard® Gold requirements and contribute to LEED certification. 

The Porto’s story

This popular family-owned restaurant features traditional, homemade-style Cuban pastries, breakfasts, sandwiches and treats. The recipes originated with Rosa Porto in her own kitchen, and moved to the first shop in 1965. Today they ship nationwide to bake at home. 

Porto’s now has five locations in the Los Angeles metro area, including Buena Park down the street from the world famous Knott’s Berry Farm theme park. They are still rated by customers at 4.7 out of 5 on Yelp.