PHOTO: Nana’s Breakfast Nook opened in February on Cross Bay Boulevard near 161st Avenue. Forum Photo by Teresa Gulino
By Michael V. Cusenza
It’s a sun-splashed Sunday morning on Cross Bay; the boulevard a shell of its work-week self – more cars than clouds, the cerulean ceiling coaxing Howard Beach up and at ‘em.
And judging from the turnout and day’s reservation ledger at Nana’s Breakfast Nook, the nascent niche eatery that seems to have quickly caught the attention of all kinds of fans of the most important meal—weekend waffle warriors to poached egg enthusiasts, and everyone in between—on the ground, it’s the food that has coaxed the community into a restaurant that opened its doors two weeks ago.
Nana’s is a joint venture of two of Howard Beach’s most recognizable and respected names: Patricia Adams, publisher of The Forum, the neighborhood’s newspaper of record; and Joe DeCandia, Jr., owner and operator of boulevard anchors Lenny’s Clam Bar and Roma View Catering.
“It was a combination of things,” noted DeCandia when asked ‘Why Nana’s? Why now?’ “The area needed something different; high-end breakfast restaurants are a new, up-and-coming trend; we had the space, the kitchen—it was a no-brainer.”
Adams said the Nana’s seed sprouted in her mind a couple of years ago. It came down to recruiting the right co-star and finding a proper home.
“I floated the concept to [Joe],” she recalled. “And I knew that he had recently bought the property next-door to Lenny’s. It felt as if the pieces were falling into place one by one.”
DeCandia has more than 40 years of experience in the restaurant industry – a fickle, rough-and-tumble beast on its best days. However, having grown up in his father’s eateries, he seems to have seen it all; and the continued popularity of Lenny’s and Roma View is testament.
“[Pat] explained it to me, but I’ve got to admit I was a little hesitant in the beginning,” DeCandia related. To assuage his uncertainty, Adams took DeCandia on a tour of sorts, sampling the fare at niche spots from Brooklyn to Manhattan and even New Jersey.
“I liked it, and thought it could do well in the area,” he said, a smile slowly unfolding to life. “There are very few places doing quality breakfast. We’re one of them.”
Quality starts with ingredients and the menu, Adams said. So she worked on the nook’s book for months, and what emerged is a food list that is as unique as it is enticing, boasting monikers like “Eve Would Have Chosen This over the Apple” (prime ruby grapefruit rubbed in fresh ginger, crusted in dark Turbinado sugar and caramelized under flame); and “Will the Real French Toast Please Stand Up?” (sliced brioche soaked in our own egg custard and oven finished with bourbon vanilla; served with honeycomb butter and 100 percent maple or confectioners sugar).
“I had a lot of fun with it,” Adams admitted. “Lot of work, but the menu was fun.”
Nana’s has been in business just two weekends, yet talk of expanding – the menu, days of operation, the dining floor, the brand – is already on the table. However, Saturday, March 5, is all Adams and DeCandia are focused on at the moment.
“It looks like it’s already working,” DeCandia said. “Who knows? Maybe we’ll grow faster than we thought we would.”
His phone’s familiar ringtone cuts the last word short. The voice on the other end says a famished party of five is on its way.
A waiter begins to prep a large round table in the center of the room.
It’s Sunday at Nana’s.
Nana’s Breakfast Nook
161-09 Cross Bay Blvd.
Howard Beach, NY 11414
FULL DISCLOSURE: The publisher of this newspaper is also a co-owner of Nana’s Breakfast Nook.