New York has no shortage of doughnut shops, so it takes a certain degree of passion, and a certain spirit — call it flair or chutzpah — to get in the game. But for Leslie Polizzotto, ex-attorney and now baked-good entrepreneur, the decision was a no-brainer: “Doughnuts just make my day. My whole life, any time someone brought in doughnuts that was just the highlight for me. I’ve always loved them, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have a doughnut shop. It’s an absolute dream!”
The Doughnut Project (10 Morton Street; 212-691-5000) specializes in small-batch, traditional (yeasted and fried) doughnuts with a true point of view based on seasonal, unexpected flavors. “We’re influenced by cocktails,” says Polizzotto. “And the ricotta cheese and beet glaze doughnut was actually inspired by a salad!” Other notable varieties include olive oil and black pepper, pineapple-jalapeño, and a maple-glazed finger doughnut crowned with a rasher of bacon. A bold statement whichever way you slice it, literally or figuratively.
“What we do here is unique,” says Polizzotto. “Our doughnuts are salty and sweet, or spicy and sweet, or smoky and sweet, never just one thing. We have some signature flavors, then some that we make according to what’s fresh and good that day when we shop. We’ve recently made an eggnog glaze for the holidays, and I was sorry to see the apple compote one go.”
The journey from law to doughnuts began, as many pie-in-the-sky ideas do, at a bar. The pizza bar in Eataly, to be precise, where chef Troy Neal was working. “We got talking,” says Polizzotto, “and he told me that his dream was to open a doughnut shop. I pulled out my phone and showed him my obsessive Pinterest boards and Instagrams of doughnuts. And pretty much right there and then I suggested we go into business together.”
Within a few weeks the pair had secured a lease in an old medical surgery office in the West Village. “When I saw this place on Morton Street I just fell in love,” Polizzotto says. “It took us twice as long to renovate the space as we thought it would, but the good news is we’re open now, and, two months in, people have been very supportive. It’s great to have regulars, and to be finding our place in the neighborhood. We really believe we offer something a little different, so we hope people will give us a shot!”