Black Seed has already earned a following for its unique bagels that borrow traits from both traditional New York and Montreal methods; still, it’s got some pretty big shoes to fill when it opens its third NYC location Monday morning in former De Robertis Pasticceria in the East Village.
“We’re not here to erase history,” said Noah Bernamoff about taking the place of the 110-year-old institution. In fact, Bernamoff and co-owner Matt Kliegman (The Smile) plan to keep the neon “De Robertis” and “baked goods” signs and even hope to keep a taste of the old bakery alive by selling a few of its traditional recipes, which Bernamoff said De Robertis owner has offered to share.
Black Seed Bagels quickly became a neighborhood favorite at its two locations, in NoLIta and Battery Park City. It seems that Bernamoff, who hails from Canada, and his New Yorker business partner Kliegman struck gold when they joined forces to create a hybrid bagel with selective traits from both styles. The result resembles your corner bodega’s or sidewalk coffee stand’s bagel in its shape, maybe, but that’s about it, according to Bernamoff. He explained that Black Seed bagels are a little sweet because they’re poached in honey water, a bit smoky and crunchy because they’re baked in a wood-burning oven, and stretchy and glutinous on the inside because the dough’s allowed to rise not just once but twice. They also use sourdough yeast rather than quick-rising yeast to impart additional flavor.
As soon as they come out of the oven, they’re rolled in the appropriate seeds so that every bagel is uniformly covered. “When you’re eating a sesame bagel, you know it’s a sesame bagel. It’s not just a plain bagel with 12 sesame seeds sprinkled on top,” said Bernamoff. And if you’re watching your carbs, it’s nice to be able to tell yourself Black Seed bagels are a little smaller than your average American, mass-produced variety. “They’re what I like to think of as the right size for a bagel,” he said.
Bernamoff showed us around Thursday afternoon, pointing out the beautifully imperfect tiling on the floors and walls, the tin ceilings, and the original ornate barrier at the back of the shop. “The old-school spots are so unique. When we heard it was available we were like, ‘Don’t show it to anyone else. We’ll sign the lease, we promise.’” Black Seed will be using the oven in the basement to expand his dessert menu with items like cookies and fudgy brownies. Eventually he plans to incorporate some traditional Italian cookies thanks to the owner John De Robertis’ willingness to pass on his recipes.
Menu items include nine fish sandwiches, including smoked sable with lox, dill cream cheese, lettuce and onion ($13.50) and smoked trout with hard boiled egg, arugula and Dijon mustard ($12.50). There’s also a wide selection of deli meat sandwiches, vegetarian options, and an expanded egg sandwich menu.
Black Seed Bagels, 176 First Avenue (East Village). Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting Monday.