"I haven't thought about a bagel in so long," one customer beamed as he recently examined the menu at Bare Naked Bakery and Cafe in Bellmore on Merrick Road. The excitement of being able to eat breads and cakes for the first time in possibly years is not uncommon here.
"We're coined as the Disney World of celiacs," owner Bridget Brennan said with a laugh.
Bare Naked Bakery and Cafe is the first gluten-free bakery and cafe on Long Island. The idea for the bakery, which has been open for about a month, came when Brennan's sister was diagnosed with Crohn's disease — an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the intestines. Crohn's disease is thought to develop from untreated celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which a person is intolerant to gluten. Brennan, who has long been conscious of the food she eats, decided to remove gluten from her diet, even though she was never diagnosed with celiac disease.
Though never diagnosed, Brennan noted that eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt, critical ingredients in everything from bread to meat fillers, made her feel tired. "You're not meant to wake up feeling tired," she said. "You're meant to wake up feeling revived."
With that in mind, Brennan, whose mother owns and operates Friendly Farms in East Meadow, began experimenting with ways to improve gluten-free eating. The difficulty came in developing ways to make food in which gluten is a defining characteristic of taste and texture. Gluten gives cakes and pastries their "fluffiness," bagels their chewiness and pizza dough its elasticity — making baking without it a trying task.
Working with baker Ryan Lattmann, the two developed recipes that grew into the full menu that Bare Naked Bakery offers today. Rather than using gluten for flat breads and cakes, the bakery uses rice, bean and potato flour. The menu begins with breakfast, including a variety of egg sandwiches and bagels, and runs to lunch, with paninis and pizza by the slice. The ability to order a slice of pizza rather than a whole pie excites customers following a gluten-free diet, Brennan noted. Before Bare Naked Bakery opened, gluten-free pizza was available, but usually as a specialty item that came frozen or only by the pie.
Bare Naked Bakery offers customers gluten-free items that are baked fresh on site every day; there is no need to worry about cross contamination or feeling uncomfortable about ordering gluten-free –– that's the point.
"You should always feel good about what you're having," Brennan said. "This is where you're normal."
Bare Naked Bakery and Cafe
2572 Merrick Road, Bellmore
Tuesday- Saturday: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Phone: (516) 809-7370
Comments about this story? DKrasula@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 234.