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Welcome to the Neighborhood: Unregular Bakery, 124 Fourth Avenue

Today we welcome a new small business to our neighborhoods — help us welcome the next. Tell us which new independent store in Greenwich Village, the East Village, or NoHo you’re excited about by emailing us at info@villagepreservation.org.

As advocates for local small business, we find great satisfaction in hearing of new independent establishments opening in our neighborhoods. These arrivals give us hope that reports of the death of mom-and-pops have been greatly exaggerated. Whenever such occasions present themselves, we like to share our enthusiasm with the world in the hopes that others will join us in wishing our new neighbors a warm welcome, and more tangibly, patronize and spread the word to help ensure their success and survival.

Like a successful date with someone who didn’t give you the time of day back in high school, acceptance tastes all the sweeter when it follows rejection. And it tastes even sweeter if it leads you to make donuts. That essentially is the story of a recent, welcome addition to the neighborhood, Unregular Bakery, at 124 Fourth Avenue (between 12th and 13th Street), a café that features Italian pastries and sandwiches with a special “unregular” twist that’s guaranteed to surprise and delight.

A few years ago, a small team of Italian entrepreneurs led by Gabriele Lamonaca decided to open Unregular Pizza, a Roman-style-by-the-slice joint specializing in “unregular” pizza creations made with high quality ingredients. Their efforts yielded such instant classics as the Unmushrooms, the Cafonata, and the epic Bufalona, earning it our October 2023 Business of the Month designation.

The road there, though, was not as smooth as their burrata. 

The idea for Unregular Pizza gestated for years and was ready to hatch by 2019, when Gabriele started looking for a space south of Union Square, which he had identified as an ideal location. Local landlords, however, kept turning him down in favor of chains and more credentialled business. The owner of 124 Fourth Avenue, for one, rejected Gabriele’s offer and leased instead to a different pizzeria. Just a few months later, though, the pandemic hit, the real estate market dropped, and landlords changed their tune, allowing Gabriele to secure a modest storefront at 135 Fourth Avenue. From there, he and his partners finally managed to realize their pizza vision.

A few years later, the Unregular team was keeping busy developing ideas for their successful pizzeria and for possible future food ventures, when the landlord at 124 Fourth Avenue approached them. He had lost his tenant and was hoping to lure to his space the very restaurant that he had spurned not so long ago. Whereupon Gabriele thought, “how interesting…!” Gabriele, however, is not one to hold grudges and, while he liked his pizzeria at its current location, he thought that this larger space might prove well-suited for a complentary venture: an Italian bakery. He and his partners had long been struck by the lack of authentic Italian bakeries in the area and felt they could right this wrong and, in so doing, enjoy the synergies from having the sweet across the street from the savory, and a sit-down cafe across the street from a take-out joint.

Unregular Bakery hews to Unregular Pizza’s tried and proven formula: unorthodox takes on Italian specialties, using great ingredients. The base of most items consists of two classic Italian café staples: the bombolone, the Italian version of the donut; and the cornetto, the Italian version of the croissant. The menu, however, features a revolving selection of original and often surprising creations. The highlights during our visits have been numerous. The blueberry/rosemary bombolone and the pistachio/orange blossom bombolone (the cream of which is made with the renowned Bronte, Sicily pistachios) boast delectable pairings.

The bodacious BombsSpritz, a donut/cocktail hybrid made with orange cream and aperol and prosecco pearls, tests the limits of indulgence.

And perhaps most exciting of all, the Spicy Mango, an homage to streetside mango vending that combines caramelized mango, mango jam, chipotle, and tajin (a chili lime seasoning), stings your lips with spice and then soothes them with creamy sweetness. 

Among the cornetti, standouts include their Pain au Chocolat, a modular reconfiguration of the classic viennoiserie that consists of pastry encased chocolate cells, allowing for easy sharing and guaranteeing a taste of chocolate in every bite, and their Bufala Cornetto, which is laminated with buffalo butter (imported from Puglia), giving it less buttery and milkier quality than its french counterpart.

The bakery also serves savory items for lunch and breakfast. The fillings, which include their signature burrata, can be sandwiched in a cornetto or a bombolone, both designed to better suit this purpose. The tight spirals of the wheel-shaped sandwich cornetto, for instance, help preserve the pastry’s integrity as you bite into it. The bomboloni are made from farina di grano arso, an aromatic, toasty dark flour from Puglia (traditionally made by milling the post-harvest residual grain after it had been burnt to restore the fertility of the land), the earthy flavor of which provides a great complement for Italian salumi.

Unregular Bakery shares the cheerful aesthetics of its across-the-street sibling, with neon signs and quasi-primary colored geometric patterns reminiscent of a 1980s aerobics studio. And you may just want to get physical if you give in to the temptation to sample your way unbridled through all of Unregular Bakery’s many delicacies. Fortunately, there is no rush. You can make a visit to Unregular Bakery a part of your daily routine and sample them one at a time. So swing by, welcome them to the neighborhood, and get started today.  

If you would like us to welcome another independent business to the neighborhood, please let us know at info@villagepreservation.org.

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