When baker Roger Gural — the owner of famed, hidden Tribeca bakery Arcade — decided he was going to retire and shut his shop in the summer of 2019, chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson reached out with a proposition. The duo behind hit Tribeca brasserie Frenchette, just a short walk away, had been serving Gural’s bread at their restaurant since it opened, and wanted to carry his legacy forward now that he had decided to step away.
“We loved Arcade, and we have long been fans of Roger and his bread,” says Nasr. “When Arcade become available, we knew we wanted to keep the notion of the neighborhood bakery going.”
Enter Frenchette Bakery, located inside the same space at 220 Church Street, between Worth and Thomas streets, which wrapped up its soft opening last week and officially opened to the public today. Nasr and Hanson have maintained much of the look of Arcade, though the seating along the corridor the bakery is located in is currently unavailable due to the restrictions on indoor dining.
The duo has brought on longtime baker Peter Edris, who was previously the head baker at Bourke Street Bakery, to head up the kitchen here, in partnership with Frenchette’s pastry chef Michelle Palazzo.
Together, the baking wizards have crafted a menu that spans several freshly baked loaves of bread and a wide selection of sweet and savory pastries. In the weeks to come, the bakery will serve a take on the French bread pizza, sandwiches, and an expanded coffee selection from Nolita’s Café Integral.
For now, Frenchette Bakery is serving six kinds of bread namely an oblong city loaf, a gold country bread, a dark malted rye bread, a fruit and seed bread, a sesame-coated bread, and baguettes.
For the savory menu, Edris and Palazzo have created items like a stuffed croissant, which comes with the option of either kimchi, egg, and comte cheese or kale, egg, and comte cheese. There’s also the cheesy, airy choux pastry dish called gougère that’s made at Frenchette Bakery using comte cheese.
The sweet side is a lot more expansive, with options including kouign-amann, a pistachio croissant, a dark chocolate croissant, two types of cookies, and the French sugar pie tarte sucrée that’s made with maple at Frenchette.
“Collaborating with Michelle and Peter has been really fun,” says Nasr. “We’re living off of their enthusiasm. It is fun throwing an idea out and seeing what they come back with.”
Nasr and Hanson took over Arcade lease in January and had initially planned to debut the space in spring, but much like every other business in the city, the opening was delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The team has been steadily working away the past two months to get the space in shape ahead of its full opening today. Meanwhile, Nasr and Hanson’s Tribeca bistro continues to do outdoor dining, and the popular Frenchette pop-up series at the Rockefeller ice skating rink has been extended through the end of this month.
In addition, Nasr and Hanson’s massive new restaurant at the Rockefeller Center is now set to open early next year, having been pushed back slightly due to the pandemic.
Over at Frenchette Bakery, Nasr and Hanson say they’re glad to be doing something that’s a lot more contained than running a restaurant. It is “small and manageable,” says Nasr. “It is nice to see small things flourishing again,” adds Hanson.
Frenchette Bakery is open daily for takeout from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.