THE BITE: This week I’m asking you, the readers of Sheepshead Bites, for some help. I’m looking for the best bread in the neighborhood. More specifically, I’m looking for the best sliced-to-order, warm-from-the-oven loaf of bread.
“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”
James Beard (1903-1985)
I agree with Mr. Beard. Sometimes a good loaf of bread with fresh butter is all you need and all that will satisfy. I want to experience that bread again.
As a kid growing up on Long Island, we had our fair share of bakeries. You’d go into the bakery, as early as possible in the morning, and pick up a loaf of freshly baked white, wheat or pumpernickel bread. If you wanted challah or rye, you had to go to the Jewish bakery across town.
You’d tell the girl behind the counter – it was always a girl working the counter; the men worked the ovens and stocked the shelves – your choice of bread and she’d ask if you wanted it sliced or not.
We always had our bread sliced. I grew up in a home with four boys, so having pre-sliced bread was mom’s way to try and ensure that there was a chance that the loaf would be evenly divided. Nice try, mom.
I’d stand back and watch the heavy blades of the machine come down on that golden loaf and shake their way through the bread, slicing it into 3/8″ thick slices. It was fascinating. I’m still intrigued every time I watch a bread slicing machine in action. I remember my grandmother warning us to stay away from the machine. “It could take a finger, ” she’d say, even though the machine was safely located behind the counter.
But times have changed. Most of the traditional bakeries in the area have shuttered. Vito’s and T & D remain, but all the rest seem to have disappeared. You can get packaged, pre-sliced breads in just about any market in the area, but they don’t have the flavor or the ambiance of a freshly sliced loaf still warm from the oven.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some great bakeries and storefronts making all sorts of Turkish, Armenian, Georgian and other Middle Eastern and Eastern European breads in the neighborhood. But those breads aren’t made for slicing. They’re made for dipping and ripping, not sandwiches or toasting.
So, ladies and gents, tell me – where do you go for a freshly sliced loaf of bread, still warm from the oven?
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.