Drop into Leli’s Bakery, which opened this past Saturday, November 10th, on 30th Avenue in Astoria, and you will be astounded by how complete the vision for the new bakery is, and how much great bread, pastries and sweets are already being produced. There is good reason for this: the owners of Leli’s own a massive commercial kitchen in the Bronx** that supplies the bread and pastries to some of New York’s most high end restaurants, hotels like The Plaza, the Waldorf Astoria and the Pierre, and well known desert chain stores like Crumbs.
While at Leli’s I ordered a Ricotta Cheese Qassatat, a fist-sized filo dough pouch filled with fresh ricotta cheese (or sometimes with spinach or meat) that was served straight from the oven and still warm. The ricotta was soft and crumbly, a perfect texture in juxtaposition to the thick, crisp filo shell. This was truly an exceptional savory pastry. Leli’s also has a full menu of espresso-based and drip coffee beverages that show a lot of promise and without the air of silliness and pretension that too often accompanies a good cup of joe in New York City. They use beans from New York’s Hudson Valley Irving Farms Coffee Company which provide great flavor.
Leli’s Bakery is the first retail storefront endeavor by the owners, selected because of their familiarity and fondness for Astoria’s thriving, bustling commercial strip. All of the baked goods are all produced in house at the 30th Avenue location and you can even watch their bread-maker making stunning-looking artisan loaves from scratch at the back of the shop. I sampled their homemade walnut raisin bread and it was incredibly fresh and flavorful having likely just been made. The ultimate goal for Leli’s is that this first storefront will be a springboard, and that the bakery will replicate throughout the city. With well conceived branding and decor, gregariously friendly employees, and exceptional baked goods, I think they may be onto something big.
It is worth mentioning that Leli’s replaces Astoria’s beloved Terrizzi Pastry Shop, which I deeply regret having never tried before it quietly closed its doors this summer, never to reopen. The ravenous crowds along 30th Avenue have voted with their feet already, however, and Leli’s has been doing a steady-to-busy business in a mere 3 days of being open. I inquired if they had an online presence and they told me not yet, that they hope that their reputation will spread by word of mouth. From the influx of curious Astorians, who seem quite impressed by what Leli’s has to offer so far, I think that their reputation will spread far and wide.
**Leli’s Bakery Update
This week I learned that the above mentioned large commercial kitchen in the Bronx behind Leli’s Bakery in Astoria is Melita Bakery, whose owner, Emanuel Darmanin, works alongside 3 generations of family members to produce their delicious desserts. According to the Daily News article about Melita Bakery, Leli’s actually has roots in Queens! In 1990, Melita Bakery was born in an 11,000 sq. ft. facility in Long Island City. A few years ago the commercial kitchen moved up to a 46,000 sq. ft. building in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx that employs 240 people. It’s no secret that I really like this new addition to the neighborhood. The service is genuinely friendly, it draws in a crowd that is representative of Astoria’s great diversity due to its 30th Avenue location, and they make some truly excellent treats. This week’s obsessions include their moist, pine nut studded pignoli cookies, a similar cookie that uses pistachios instead of pine nuts, and their collection of sable cookies, a type of french sugar cookie, topped with various sweet icings. The lemon sable cookie, pictured above, is my current favorite. Check out Leli’s Bakery if you haven’t already, Astoria!
Leli’s Bakery, 35-14 30th Avenue, Astoria NY