Black Seed Plots Expansion Into Old De Robertis Space in the East Village
Zachary Feldman, Village Voice
Black Seed Bagels has been fielding long lines for its Montreal(ish)-style bagels since it first opened on Elizabeth Street nine months ago; occasionally, in the early days, it was forced to close early because it had maxed out its production capacity in this space and had no more bagels to sell. So owners Noah Bernamoff (who also owns Mile End) and Matt Kliegman (proprietor of The Smile) look forward to expanding into another kitchen in the East Village: The partners picked up the lease for the De Robertis Pasticceria space (176 First Avenue), and they'll open the second location later this spring.
De Robertis was an East Village stalwart for more than a century, run, in the end, by John De Robertis, the founder's grandson. Bernamoff and Kliegman are sensitive to what that means, and they're working to preserve some of the legacy of the bakery. "We met with John before he sold the business," Bernamoff says. "We went out for coffee, and he was telling us about the history of the pastry shop. We're excited to maintain some of the features. It's impressive to see a family business live for 110 years, and we wish the De Robertis family the best. We're excited to keep the tradition of baking alive in that space; it's an important part of the history of the East Village. It would really suck for that to turn into a cellphone store. If something new has to move in, at least it could be someone baking something."
Bernamoff also says the De Robertis family may teach the Black Seed baking team how to make the Italian cookies the pasticceria used to sell by the pound. If Black Seed can learn the recipe, it'll also sell those cookies by the pound as an ode to the community.
As for the rest of the concept, this location will be a full bakery just like the one on Elizabeth Street, and there's enough space that baker Dianna Daoheung and her team should be able to expand Black Seed's wholesale business. The owners also plan to introduce some new items, starting with fresh-squeezed orange juice. "Really amazing OJ is something you never really get at a bagel store," says Bernamoff. "We feel a lot of our customers have asked for that."
And if you're wondering whether this constitutes the beginning of a massive Black Seed expansion, the answer is yes — sort of. "Matt and I designed it to be an expandable food concept," Bernamoff says. "We both have our own less expandable concepts — those require a lot of regular nursing, and a lot of effort to keep them running well. Black Seed, while a lot of effort, is simpler and narrower. So we're certainly looking to turn Black Seed into a substantial venture. I don't know what that looks like, and I'm not sure what that means. We're opening another one now. Maybe there'll be a third one in the next year, then maybe one a year for five or six years. It lives in the back of our minds."
Look for a late-spring debut.
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