Going for the Classic Bagel

| 17 Feb 2015 | 05:07

A Barney Greengrass alum teams up for a new bagel store downtown

Bari Musacchio, the former general manager of the family-style Italian spot Rubirosa on Mulberry Street, has lived in Nolita since 2002, and for the past dozen years she's struggled to find a decent breakfast in the neighborhood.

"I grew up on Long Island eating bagels twice a week," Musacchio said. "But even though there are tons of great pastry shops in Nolita, there's nowhere to get a good bagel. Every morning, I'd think, 'What am I going to eat?' Finally, I figured that the time was right to open a bagel store myself."

Musacchio has partnered with David Heffernan, an alum of legendary Upper West Side store Barney Greengrass, to open Baz Bagel. The 35-seat restaurant will debut at 181 Grand Street at the end of April. In addition to bagels, the store will serve a full menu of smoked and cured fish, matzoh ball soup, chopped liver and challah French toast.

Though Musacchio is better known for her Italian background, she's half-Jewish, and many of Baz Bagel's recipes have been passed down to her through relatives: the potato latkes, for example, are her grandmother's recipe. "I come from a long line of maternal chefs," she says.

During her decade-plus pursuit of the perfect NYC bagel, Musacchio ended up spending a lot of time at Barney Greengrass, which has been dishing out its much-beloved whitefish salad, smoked sturgeon and jewel-toned Scottish salmon since 1908. It was there that she met Heffernan, who worked as a waiter for eight years and became a customer favorite due, Musacchio said, to his "amazing ability to work the room."

"He has this great rapport with customers," she explained. "He remembers every regular's order. And he loves the products-the bagels and the fish," she added. The two became fast friends when they realized that they both lived in Nolita, about a block away from each other. At Baz Bagel, Heffernan will be on the floor, while Musacchio's role will be more behind-the-scenes.

So what can we expect from the bagels?

"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel," Musacchio said. "We're creating a classic New York bagel. But in my opinion, that's really something to talk about." The Baz Bagel formula will be a time-tested one: hand-rolled-no machines here-then boiled, baked and topped with traditional additions such as sesame and poppy seeds. The top-of-the-line Brooklyn producer Acme will supply the smoked fish, while the gravlax will be cured in-house.

Baz Bagel will begin as a lunch concept-after all, we're talking bagels, lox and eggs here-but will open for dinner if customers begin to clamor for it. Most of all, Musacchio said, she's looking forward to welcoming her neighbors and all the people she's gotten to know in her years of living and working in the area.

"We're going for a real community feel," she said.