It’s a Wednesday afternoon at Mrs. Brizzle’s Buns in Sea Isle, and a pair of women watch in awe as the hoagies they ordered are prepared behind the counter. Pamela Cardinale, one half of the husband-and-wife team that own Mrs. Brizzle’s, dexterously slices layer after layer after layer of meat and piles it onto the bread.
When the hoagies are wrapped and handed over by the warm and wise-cracking Michael Cardinale, Pamela’s husband and co-owner of the spot, one of the women whispers to her friend, “Didn’t I order the small one?” Yes — she did order the small one. It’s just that big.
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“The thing that sets us apart is the quantity of food you get for your money,” Michael Cardinale says of his shop, which is half bakery, half deli. “Everything is split-able, that’s why we stay busy all year round.”
While Cardinale spends his days mixing dough for the massive cinnamon buns the shop gets its name from, he used to make a living mixing an entirely different substance: concrete. For years he worked as a concrete contractor in Pennsylvania, and spent the weekends and summers driving back and forth to the shore with Pamela. Eventually, commuting to keeping their love affair with the ocean afloat became too much, so they relocated to Wildwood and opened the first iteration of Mrs. Brizzle’s Buns, selling mainly coffee and cinnamon buns.
“I really wanted to move down here, and I wanted to try something different,” Cardinale recalls. “We had a nice little niche going, and we started to get busy.”
Later they opened another Mrs. Brizzle’s in Sea Isle City’s Promenade, where they added the deli counter options; Pamela ran the Sea Isle location and Michael the Wildwood. After three successful years, the couple decided to close the Promenade and Wildwood locations and move to Landis Avenue in Sea Isle, where now, 21 years since the inception of the shop, the sole Mrs. Brizzle’s Buns sits.
Besides the aforementioned monstrous hoagies, a lip-smacking display of bakery items, like muffins ($2.50), homemade biscotti ($1.75) and, of course, cinnamon buns ($3.75), with a dollop of icing on top that’s nearly as big as the bun itself, are offered en masse at Mrs. Brizzle’s.
When asked what the secret is to the famous “buns” they’re known for, Cardinale jokes, “You gotta get up early!” He then relents, “Seriously, it’s the dough. I make everything homemade, and it’s all hand-rolled.”
The cinnamon buns are the brainchild of Cardinale, who workshopped the recipe at parties before staking the fate of his bakery on it, but it’s his mother who’s responsible for many of the recipes at Mrs. Brizzle’s.
“My mother was a really good baker, and I grabbed some of her recipes and switched them around a little bit,” Cardinale says.
Cardinale may have his mother to thank for the recipes, but he has his grandmother to thank for the name.
“My grandmother was an Italian immigrant and couldn’t speak English very well. So, instead of saying it was ‘drizzling’ outside when it was raining, she’d say it was ‘brizzling.’ We named the shop after her,” Cardinale reminisces.
Besides the sweet treats, Mrs. Brizzle’s Buns’ most popular items include the Paisano hoagie ($12.99 for half, $24.99 for whole) with hot sopressata, Italian capocollo, ham capocollo, genoa salami, sharp provolone, lettuce and tomato, onion, oil, spicy roasted red peppers and topped with prosciutto; the Brizzle salad ($12.99) with artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and provolone; and the breakfast sandwich ($6.99), which is your classic egg, cheese and choice of meat on a bagel, toast or Kaiser roll — except for the fact that its overstuffed, made with the quantity of ingredients that others would use for four sandwiches.
All of the deli meats are high quality Boar’s Head, and all are sliced to order. “Even when we get busy in the summer, we never pre-slice,” Cardinale says.
Which is saying something, because the amount of meat piled on these hoagies is astounding. In fact, the menu gives a well-placed word of caution: “Warning: all subs are giant.” Where most places consider a foot-long “whole,” at Mrs. Brizzle’s a 12-inch is considered “half.” A “whole” hoagie is a staggering 24 inches long, explaining the confusion of the women who thought they ordered “the small one.”
So bring your family, bring your friends, bring your neighbors, co-workers, casual acquaintances and frenemies. There’s certainly enough to go around at Mrs. Brizzle’s Buns.