Photography by: Josh Triggs
Written by: Christina Rinaldi
I can promise you won’t be disappointed with a trip to Sclafani’s New York Bagels and Breads. This cozy shop just opened in July, but the company has a long history. It has been family owned for around a hundred years. The roots of this bakery stem back to the Lower Manhattan side of New York City, in the heart of Little Italy. If you visit this new location in Winchester, make sure to take a look at the black and white photographs that will give you a glimpse of the original storefront and the busy city sidewalks and streets.
So how did this company that started in New York City end up in Winchester, Virginia? I was eager to learn the answer. Owner Chris Sclafani told me all about how this great business started with his great grandfather and how they learned bagel making from the Jewish community and incorporated this skill in with their Italian bread business. Sadly, after the losses of family members, the original location had to close its doors for around two decades. During this time, Chris was attending Liberty Baptist Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. After working for seven years as a missionary in Atlantic City, Trenton, and Camden, New Jersey Chris decided to return to the area to pass on his family’s legacy to his own children. He intends to open a location for each child.
When I first entered the building, I was immediately enveloped in warmth from the ovens. The light fragrance of cinnamon sugar and breads wafted lightly through the air, reminding me of my own Italian upbringing with Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house. What struck me even more than the childhood reminiscing were the walls. Beautiful repurposed bricks line the sides, adding a great charm, but what was stuck in the cracks between them literally sticks out. Folded pieces of paper containing prayers are stuck in the cracks of the walls in an uncountable number. Standing against the wall to get a better look, I was overwhelmed.
Chris explained to me that this practice just started around a month before my visit there, but the walls were already fi lling. The sense of community is abundant in something so simple. Chris always makes sure he knows a little bit about each customer he serves to make everyone feel at home. Another touch that most might not notice was an inscription on the handle of an oven, “John 3:16… I am the bread of life,” with a small cross – a great reminder every day that Chris and his family are just as dedicated to their faith as they are their work. They are not only feeding mouths, but also feeding souls.
The Sclafanis and their employees come in at 4 A.M. every morning to begin the day. Their process begins with fl our and ends with bread, which Chris sums up in one word, “Yummy!” Their goal is to provide the highest quality of the largest portion of food for the least amount of money possible in a nice atmosphere with friendly service. If you asked me, I’d say they are succeeding in all of these aspects. All of the offerings are old family recipes that have only been modifi ed slightly. The breads are all homemade, and there are never any preservatives. They always try to use local ingredients whenever possible, starting with ingredients from the Valley, then moving out further into the state of Virginia, and fi nally to other states when absolutely necessary. You may often see deliveries come in as you dine. You can rest assured that you are receiving the highest quality ingredients available when eating at Sclafani’s.
No matter what time of day you stop in, you’ll fi nd something appropriate for every meal. Sclafani’s serves up breakfast all day and lunch starting at 11:00 A.M. Tuesdays through Sundays. A beautiful black and white menu proudly boasts, “The Best of Little Italy.” There are lots of options to choose from, and you can mix and match your spreads and bagel flavors. A children’s menu also features a few favorite items to please your picky eaters.
With fresh breakfast served all day, you can pop in before work to grab a hot sandwich and a coffee or tea for your daily commute. You can even have a splash of flavored syrup in your coffee or drink it black if that’s your preference.
You can get a bagel by itself with a cream cheese, butter, or peanut butter spread. Choose your bagel flavor from plain, sesame seed, poppy seed, salt, garlic and onion, everything, cinnamon raisin, or blueberry all in New York waterboiled style. At the end of October, whole wheat, pumpkin spice, French toast, and cheddar jalapeño flavors were also added to the menu. You can also pick up a half or whole dozen bagels of your choice. In addition, you can take your favorite kind of bagel and turn it into a sandwich. Sclafani’s offers egg and cheese, sausage, bacon, ham, chicken salad, turkey, salami, and lox.
“All subs served on our homemade Italian loaf.” If you stop in for lunch, you can get a taste of true Italian subs. Get a six inch or twelve inch sub during your lunch break or while out running errands. The first item on the menu is a meatball sub served with a fresh savory sauce and melted mozzarella, rich ricotta, and parmesan cheeses. Another item that caught my eye was the chicken parmesan sub. The menu reads, “Nono’s (grandfather’s) chicken.” You can see that the love and traditions of this family have carried on through the generations in these recipes passed down from one son to the next.
There is also an eggplant parmesan sub for vegetarians to enjoy. You could also build your own cold cut sub, constructed from the many options and fixings offered by Sclafani’s. You can add a side of fries to any meal, or choose from a cup of chicken salad or mac n’ cheese. You may even be tempted to select an option from the children’s menu. Who can resist the childhood favorites of a pizza bagel or a PB and J bagel?
My overall take on Sclafani’s New York Bagels and Bread is that this establishment is going to achieve great things. With an atmosphere that makes you feel like you are at home, a staff that welcomes you like family, and food that tastes like traditional home cooking, this place is perfect for anyone to enjoy.