FOREST HILLS, Queens – Lillian Kogan, a petite, white-haired woman walks down 72nd Road and heads for home on Austrin Street only two blocks away. Hanging from her left arm is a bag filled with fresh bread and croissants from the artisan bakery, La Boulangerie. Kogan is 90-years-old and has never been to a bakery quite like this one.
“This is my second trip here this week, I was here Wednesday and I’m here today,” said Kogan who has lived in Forest Hills for eight years. “I sit and eat the bread and before I know it, it’s gone.”
Pressing her hand to her heart, she raves about everything on La Boulangerie’s menu— from the cucumber soup to the multigrain loaves.Owned by Brittany, France native Francois Danielo and Nadia DeJesus, La Boulangerie celebrated its first anniversary on July 13th, one day before the French National Day, La Fête Nationale. More commonly known as Bastille Day in the U.S., Danielo and DeJesus chose to celebrate this year’s holiday by making crêpes for their customers.
Danielo set up a crêpe station outside. Customers watched, intrigued by the process. Among the crêpes to choose from: banana and Nutella, ham and cheese, lemon and sugar. By 2 p.m., there was a one hour wait. Inside, customers enjoyed other pastries like bread pudding with caramel sauce, raisin croissants and apple turnovers as they sat along a long wooden table, talking and laughing.
“For 30 some years I’ve been hoping to have in my area what I know as the best pastries in the world,” said Roland Trandafir of Forest Hills. “So finally Francois comes here and all of a sudden sets up and it’s the most authentic kind of thing. This is the real stuff and it’s a world of a difference.”
Trandafir, a French native, traveled from France to the U.S. when he was 3-years-old. He has returned to France for work since then, but prefers living in America. Until last year, the only thing he felt was missing from life in the States was a bakery like La Boulangerie.
Another customer, Sheila Ross also spent some time in France for work, living in the country for three years. La Boulangerie is one of her favorite bakery’s.
“I’ve been here ever since [Danielo] opened and I just think he’s fabulous,” she said. “I like the taste of the bread. To me, it taste more like what I get in France. I love his bread pudding, which he makes a way no Frenchman would make it but it’s absolutely fabulous.”
Ross lives right next door, which she says is nice, but not so good for the waist line.
Forest Hills residents have embraced Danielo and DeJesus, raving about their pastries, charm and goût authentique.
“Nothing compares to it,” Trandafir said.
Photos by Michael Gambina/Queens Beat