Árpád Nagy and his wife Éva Szabó have run the family business for decades now: the simple reason their bakery has become the main attraction of Balatonalmádi is that they use every ingredient generously to create the perfect loaf of bread. We visited the elderly couple to chat about the old days and try their far-famed Hungarian chocolate snails.
Once upon a time… all’s well that ends well. There’s probably no better way to start and end an article about Szabó Bakery, located in Balatonalmádi. The story of the small establishment is a classic 20th-century fairy tale.
In the past few decades, the bakery of the Szabó family has earned legend status in Almádi and the surrounding towns and villages because the breads and other baked good are made with high-quality ingredients. The bakery is always busy in the morning hours, even if the only thing that’s left is Gugelhupf. We’ve seen it; we know it’s true: we arrived too late, at 10am, and there was nothing left on the shelves, but you could still put your name on the list for the bread baked the next day. Many of our fellow customers were just as incredulous as us about the depleted supplies.
Standing behind the counter of the shop, Árpád Nagy told us about their fairy tale: his father-in-law Gyula Szabó came to the Balaton region from Sárvár, and when he first laid eyes on the beautiful lake, he knew immediately that he needed to live here. He began his career as a baker’s apprentice, and he later founded his own bakery with his brother. Everything was going well, but then came Hitler, the Blitzkrieg, and World War II, after which Gyula Szabó thankfully returned unharmed from the front.
The socialist years treated the bakery less kindly: it was nationalized in 1952, and incorporated into a state-owned baking factory. Luckily, the building was preserved, and the family could finally reclaim their business as the political climate began to thaw in the 1970s. After the death of Gyula Szabó in 1993, it was Nagy Árpád’s wife Éva Szabó who took the reins.
Éva used to work as a PE teacher, while her husband was employed for a long time at the nearby alumina plant, but lost his job when the Hungarian industry collapsed at the time of the change of regime. It was clear what was going to happen: he joined the bakery.
Most things have stayed the same since 1993, “everything is done the same way my parents used to do”, says Éva, who thinks “there’s no such thing as a bad recipe”, all you need is the right ingredients. All the goods are shaped by hand, and placed in the gigantic oven built into the wall. Their most popular product are curd cheese “pockets”, but the fruity pastries are also a crowd favorite.
The Szabós say the summer season is less and less profitable for them; it’s not like in the 1970s when tourists from East Germany used to arrive at Balaton by the busload. Customers are aplenty to this day, but the couple has grown old since then, and it’s more and more difficult to get up early and stand by the oven each day, especially since they can hardly find new employees to work with.