denica freitas

From the time she was a little girl, she dreamed of having a pastry shop.  She became the official baker of the family, and passionately read every cookbook and food magazine she could find.   She is a first generation daughter of immigrants from Spain, and credits her Mother for her cooking and baking talents and both of her parents for her business acumen and work ethic.

Her parents were self made entrepreneurs.  Her Mother owned and operated a bridal shop in the Bay Area, Brides ‘n Belles, for 30 years.  Denica worked with her mother in that business for 10 years, learning the nuances of customer service, employee management, and running a successful business. Her Father owned and operates a successful communication company.   She was involved in her father’s company, where she rounded out her business skills by learning about accounting and business management.  At the age of 25, Denica started taking weekend pastry classes at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.  She was offered an opportunity to apprentice with one of the chefs, an alumni of the Ritz Carlton.  Those courses added to her foundation of baking skills, and gave her the confidence to move forward with her dream.  In 1994, she launched an exclusive special order cake business, specializing in elaborate, gourmet wedding and special occasion cakes that were in high demand from San Francisco to San Jose, Livermore to Napa.

In 1999, she joined forces with James Freitas, the visionary, the drive and the love of her life.   They merged their two businesses, Cakes by Denica and Cookie Express.  They moved the creation to Dublin, and in July, 2000, opened Denica’s Pastry Café.

james freitas

James owned and operated a very successful cookie and coffee store, Cookie Express, in Castro Valley for 12 years.  He featured the same famous cookies that have made Denica’s famous, but shipped them nationwide as well as selling them in his storefront bakery.  He is a self taught chef, and dreamed of owning his own restaurant.  He started in the business at the young age of 15 as a busboy.  James had gained invaluable experience along the way, working at many fine restaurants from Lake Tahoe to Maui.   He brought with him the experience necessary to build a restaurant from the ground up (no easy feat).

In 2000, they decided to join our efforts, and realize their dreams together.  With the support of their families, they opened the original Denica’s Pastry Café.  The business grew, and opportunity knocked in 2005 when the space next door became available.  They took over the building and added Denica’s Taco Lounge.

In keeping with their need to grow, in November of 2006 they added breakfast.  The menu is in keeping with our philosophy-great food, great quality.

Together, they have 5 wonderful children and 3 grandchildren, and between them and the business, lead a very busy life.  Their personal motto is to dream it, think it, do it.  Repeat.

The real story of James and Denica….

From our first newsletter back in 2007

Well here we are, our first issue!  We are devoting this issue to telling you about us, who we are, where we have been, where we are going…
I am Denica, most of you know me, and if you don’t, you certainly know my husband, James.  We are partners in life, love, and in this creation of ours, an ever evolving and deliciously developing restaurant and bakery….

The Cookie Man and The Cake Lady
a sweet tale with a happy ending…

My love of baking began as a youngster when I graduated from the easy-bake oven to making up my own recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies. Being shy, with a love of reading and baking, I began collecting cookbooks and cooking magazines. I would read them cover to cover and dream of the yummy, pretty things I would have in my bakery.

As I reached adulthood, I realized the power of my talent, and decided to pursue my dream. I attended the Pastry Program at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and went on to open a successful specialty cake business,” Cakes by Denica”. Though I was doing what I loved, I was lonely in my little kitchen, making beautiful elaborate cakes for couples in love.

Along came James. He owned and operated the unique “Cookie Express” in Castro Valley, and was known for his Aloha attire, positive attitude, and quest for adventure. His friends and clientele referred to him as the Cookie Man. He was at the cutting edge of the coffee boom, before Starbucks, and shipped the very same delicious cookies we have now nationwide.

We met and fell in love…we were full of ideas and optimism. In 2000, the “Cookie Man” and the “Cake Lady” decided to put our dreams on the same path. We opened the Pastry Café, serving pastries, coffee, and a small menu of 5 sandwiches and 3 salads. In 2005, we expanded to take over the adjacent spot and created the Taco Lounge. And again in 2006, we expanded again to offer a full breakfast menu. Together with our five children, we have put our hearts, brains, and love into this business we call ours. We are both realizing our dreams of owning a restaurant and bakery, with love as the glue that helps us succeed.
That is the story so far…
James and Denica

25 Responses to “us”
  1. You guys rock!!!!!

  2. Vickie Davis says:

    Without knowing who the owners of Denica’s were, it warms my heart to have been served by both James and Denica, with such a loving and personable attitude. I’m stationed at Camp Parks and whether I’m in uniform or NOT, James ALWAYS shows his appreciation for the Military. He takes time to KNOW his customers. That’s a natural trait.


  3. Robert Charles says:

    Only if I lived in or around Dublin (Im in East Contra Costa), I believe I would apply for a position. I love the website and your establishment seems it would be a great place to work.

  4. Steve says:

    Visited my three grandchildren this week end, and had breakfast two days in a row. Great food and service! Fantistic pastries! James personally served my coffee and greated me. Loved the family atmosphere, especially the family photo’s adorning the walls.

  5. Mark Hearn says:

    I live in Walnut creek and see you are opening a new store in e citrus circle, cannot wait. So I am setting a meeting to have breakfast. Tomorrow in Dublin

  6. Joanie M Miller says:

    We have been coming to Denicas for over a year now and just love it. The food is down home style and there is always plenty of it. It is so good and we keep coming back for more. My favorite is the chicken salad sandwich and green salad with cranberries and sugared walnuts, the dressing really compliments the salad. I wish they serverd the mushroom bisque more often. The people that work there are so nice and friendly, its no wonder it has become so popular. My husband loves the cornmeal pancakes.
    All the best.

  7. Jacqui says:

    Denica made a cake for me 14 years ago when my daughter turned 1. It was a Clifford cake. That was when she had a little kitchen in CastroValley. Although I wish she still made cakes I am happy that their cafe is right down the street from where I live.

  8. Pat says:

    My husband and I love your Dublin restaurant and those to die
    for cookies!!

    Welcome to Livermore! We will be making it a regular stop for your delicious soups (pea soup is my favorite. Bob loves the tortilla soup)

    Looking forward to trying everything on your menu!

  9. renita says:

    I just had to stop and say how many wonderful things I’ve heard about your shop from firends of mine in the Livermore area. I have to come and see yo soon! I sure miss your cooking/baking! I lived for those cookie baskets you made us a Christmas at Brides n Belles.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    Been to the Dublin Denica’s a couple months back. Food was fantastic. Going to the Livermore Denica’s today. Really looking forward to it, expecting the same quality. Highly recommend the one I’ve been to so far. Two thumbs up.

  11. Cristy says:

    We love your restaurant! We NEED one is Castro Valley!!!

  12. Denica’s has become a regular craft services go-to for production crew when I am in town. The Strawberry Waffle is my personal fave. Chocolate Os for take out for the crew.

  13. Cat Hernandez says:

    This establishment looks and sounds amazing! After reading about Denica’s history and her story with James, I would more than love to work for Denica’s Real Food Kitchen.

  14. Kristy says:

    I have been coming to Denicas for years, even before they expanded. It’s our number one hidden jewel in Dublin. Denica is so nice, she even helped me back in the day when I was doing weight watchers. Telling me what I can eat and modify on the menu. I’ve introduced so many friends and family to Denica’s over the years, that they are now addicted to going at least once or twice a week. We love the stories on the walls. It truly tells us a story of love and family. My husband and I told our in-laws on a giant chocolate chip cookie that we were expecting. They were so excited to see the box of cookies but their mouths dropped when they opened the box with the exciting news written on the cookie! Denica’s is truly a little piece of heaven!

  15. Winnie Garavatti says:

    Had to laugh after reading your bios. Noticed that you were coming to Castro Valley. We had been meeting our son and his wife at your Livermore locations. I fell in love with the cinnamon rolls all the while thinking I haven’t had cinnamon rolls this good since Cookie Express was in CV. I had no idea. Fell in love with those Cinnamon rolls when I was pregnant the my youngest and would stop for my morning fix. Started with the mochas after she was born, James always commented about her footee PJ’s. She is 23 yrs old now. So glad to see you are happy and growing. We will be in when you open. CV needs a good place to eat !

    • Denica Freitas says:

      Hi Winnie-
      James and those cinnamon rolls!! I fell in love with him over a latte 😉 at Cookie Express! We are excited to serve our hometown, and looking forward to seeing you soon!

  16. Prggy says:

    We just had breakfast at the Walnut Creek location…to round out visits to all three locations. We are so looking forward to your opening in Castro Valley…almost within walking distance!

  17. Joyce Z. says:

    We moved to the tri-valley area 6 yrs ago and got introduced to Denica’s in Dublin by a coworker of my husband. Ever since then we’ve been coming back over and over again! The food is amazing and the service is top! Absolutely love the homey feel of this place. Just by looking at all the beautiful family pictures on the wall, it makes you feel like Denice and James are one of our friends 🙂 We’ve brought many friends here through the years and everyone fell in love! And this will be the restaurant that my 8-year-old remember as a family favorite when she grows up. Thank you to the wonderful couple who put your heart and love into your food!

  18. Ashley says:

    New Favorite Restaurant <3
    HI! Today was my first day at Danica's Real Food Kitchen! and it was awesome! the person who took my order was James (Castro Valley location)and he was really nice I will be coming back again because of him and the atmosphere! i saw James even walking with a hop in his step to the beat of the music. He is happy and that means this is a good family! I have rewards card and will be bringing my family members here! i love the train table! I even played with the trains myself 🙂 I even got a free pastry of my choice because it was my first time! keep up the good hard work and loving your customers its paying off!!!

    • Denica Freitas says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words!!! We appreciate it 🙂 Denica and James

  19. Maggie says:

    Dear James and Denica, Please please please open up a location in or near Tracy Manteca Lathrop CA as all your locations are too far for me to drive on daily basis and would love to have breakfast with your restaurant every day. I think I saw Denica at the Livermore location on the July 4 th 2019 , but did not know who you were then and just recognized you from your photo on this blog. You had great big smile on your face and that’s what I remembered. The food reminds me of my mother and good quality home cooked meal. Thank you for doing what you have for all this years. Do not change please. From valued and appreciative customer Maggie.

    • Denica Freitas says:

      Hi Maggie- Thank you so much for your kind words! I am so honored that our food reminds you of your mom’s cooking!! This makes me so happy! We are always looking for new locations, and will let you know if something comes up closer to you! Much love – Denica

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  1. […] also have a really nice blog at My congratulations to both James and Denica for their opening and wish them the success they […]