By Michele Deluca
Niagara Gazette —
The bakery cases at Leone’s Cookies don’t just hold baked goods. They hold family memories.
The recipe for the Italian fig cookies comes from Mary Martinick’s Aunt Lorraine. The recipe for the Italian bread co-owner Anthony Leone makes every day, comes from his Grandma Rose. His thumbprint cookies and Linzer tarts are recipes from his Uncle Joe. It’s like a sweet family reunion.
Almost every item in the case at their new shop on Grand Island Boulevard has a story behind it. And that’s what they feel will make the difference their products and those sold by the area bakery giants.
Their little bake shop opened in October and shares space with the newly opened RigaTony’s Italian Take-out and Catering.
The little Grand Island Boulevard storefront is a place of dreams brought to life as the co-owners Leone and Martinick had been looking for a space to open a bakery when they serendipitously found Anthony Massaro, who was fulfilling a lifelong dream and opening an Italian take-out restaurant and catering business.
Leone and Martinick met when they worked together at Cinta’s Document Shredding on Grand Island. Leone, father of six, and Martinick, mom of three, were drawn together by their love of baking. Leone had given his whole family giant chocolate chip cookies for Christmas and his sister, Natalie, pressed him to open his own shop. Martinick was known for bringing delicious baked goods to work. The pair decided to look for a storefront.
As for Massaro, he sold his landscaping business to open the restaurant side of the cafe. Then he found Leone and Martinick to help with the rent.
The result is a work in process as the three are combining their efforts to make the store a one-stop shop for savory meals and desserts.
Massaro offers a simple takeout menu of Italian staples like lasagna and Parmesans. He also offers traditional sides like beans and greens, and rice balls. With family roots in Niagara Falls, the menu is familiar.
“It’s my version of everything we had growing up,” he said.
RigaTony’s is only open for dinner Monday through Friday for now, but the bakery will be open every day at 6:30 a.m. and closing weeknights at 7 p.m. with earlier closing time on the weekends.
The place has a handful of tables with black-and-white checked tablecloths, and the window is decorated with plants and statues of two favorite saints, because Martinick said “We prayed to St. Anthony and St. Jude to help us find a place.”
Since the bakery opens so early, Leone’s also offers breakfast sandwiches and coffee.
Each baker keeps exploring their roots. Recently Martinek, of Dutch and German background, began planning to create some stroopwafels which her family used to make. They are waffle cookies held together by caramel, which can be placed on a cup of coffee so that the steam melts the caramel.
Martinek says that for those who want “true homemade bakery,” Leone’s is “a step back in time.”
During a recent morning of baking, Leone took the time to gather a couple of his family recipes to share.
Uncle Joe’s Linzer tart cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup or more raspberry preserves
Mix butter, sugar, eggs, extract, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix until firm.
Shape in ball and place in fridge until chilled.
Take chilled ball from fridge and cut in half, returning half to the fridge to stay cold, as dough is tough to work with unless it is chilled.
Roll out first half of ball. Using circular cookie cutter, cut into circles and place on cookie sheet.
Reshape leftover dough from the cut-out process into a ball and return to fridge to rechill.
Remove second half of the original ball and repeat, rolling and cutting circles.
Dip a thimble or small round cutter in flour and cut out a small circle in the center of exactly half of the cookies.
Bake cookies for 7 minutes at 350. Cookies with hole will bake faster so watch carefully.
When cookies are cooled, frost solid circles with raspberry preserves. Top with remaining cookies and sift powdered sugar on top of each cookie.
Uncle Joe’s cherry thumbprints
11/2 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place ingredients in bowl and blend with mix master or spoon.
When dough is putty-like remove and cut into 24 pieces.
Roll pieces into balls and place on cookie sheet.
Press a thumb into each cookie and then top thumbprint with half a maraschino cherry.
Leone also makes these cookies with lemon curd, lime curd or chocolate granache.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: Leone’s Cookies and More with Mary
• WHERE: 2488 Grand Island Blvd. at RigaTony’s Italian Take-Out and Catering
• WHEN: Open 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; and 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sundays. RigaTony’s is open 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
• MORE INFORMATION: Call Leone’s Cookies at 560-1985. Call RigaTony’s at 773-2328.