Sal Picinich

Sal Picinich of Carlstadt, the veteran baker who became an unexpected celebrity through the reality TV series "Cake Boss," died Sunday. He was 63.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Lucille.

Mr. Picinich, born on the Croatian island of Susakcq, worked 45 years at Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, where the TLC series is set. "Cake Boss" premiered in April 2009 and follows the adventures of Buddy "The Cake Boss" Valastro and his family and staff as they turn out big, fancy custom cake after big, fancy custom cake. The show's fourth season began Monday.

Valastro looked up to Mr. Picinich as a "second father," said the bakery's publicist, Adam Bourcier. Mr. Picinich had worked under Valastro's late father, Buddy Valastro Sr.

Mr. Picinich stopped appearing on the show at the end of 2009, when he began battling illness, but returned last summer to accept the Employee of the Century Award on the occasion of the bakery's 100th anniversary.

Lucille Picinich said her husband  "a man of little words"  enjoyed his brief celebrity.

"We'd go to Applegate Farms [in Montclair] and all of a sudden people would say, 'Hey, there's Sal!'x" she said. "We went on a cruise last summer and he was spotted on the Oasis."

Mr. Picinich was a dedicated workaholic, his wife said: "The minute he didn't go down to Carlo's Bakery was the minute I knew Sal was starting to feel pain."

Sal was 21 when he met 16ï¾½-year-old Lucille, who lived next to the Washington Street bakery and worked there after school. They married in 1973.

Mr. Picinich also is survived by his children, Danielle Picinich Reinoso and Salvatore Picinich, both of Carlstadt; two brothers, two sisters and two grandchildren.

Visiting is Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Kimak Funeral Home, Carlstadt. The funeral Mass will be Friday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph's R.C. Church in East Rutherford. Entombment will be in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

E-mail: levin@northjersey.com
Published in The Record on Feb. 1, 2011