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Pi Bakerie: where baking Meets art
Inspired by the Greek symbol of circumference (π) and the tradition of making pies, Pi Bakerie, located on 512 Broome Street, in Manhattan, has elevated baking to an art form. On my way there, I felt like I was walking in circles through squares. If you aren’t familiar with the area it can get confusing, but it’s really just a stone’s throw from the Canal Street station on the N, W, and R trains. Walking into Pi Bakerie is more like walking into a swanky chic soho gallery where minimalist art meets a continued tradition of carefully curated baked goods. It offers an extended menu of items with a European flair. Pastries like melomakarona, baklava, and kourambiedes (also called Athena’s Wedding Cookies) still have a starring role here with support from newly inspired and reimagined Greek favorites melding together tradition with new branding and current trends.
Pi Bakerie prides itself on bringing Ancient Greek baking concepts, recipes, and techniques into the here and now. Everything is made from scratch by hand and the use of equipment. In ancient Greece they used a different type equipment – a woman kneading dough in a clay like basin. At the helm of it all now is still a woman, owner Anthi Aggelou, who does all the hand-rolling, hand-cutting, and baking herself on the premises. She loves to bake and proudly carries on the tradition of her parents’ artisanship at Pi. This is still a family operation with family recipe secrets that they create and serve with love and pride. They also incorporate a variety of recipes from different Greek women throughout Greece renowned for their baking technique.
Mr. Angelo Katopodis, Anthi’s father and business partner, insisted that I try a special fruit infused cookie using ingredients that were found in Ancient Greece. This cookie sells like hot cakes and is vegan friendly. It consists of wine, honey, wheat flour, olive oil, dry figs, cherries, and other seasonal fruits. No eggs, milk, or sugar are added. It was like biting into a Holiday fruitcake with the texture of a cookie.
In keeping in line with the “pi” theme, pretty much everything you get here is served in slivers, slices, triangles, or rounds, all part of one or several types of Greek pies. Orange pie or portokalopita is served in a thick square of phyllo dough, orange zest, and Greek yogurt. Walnut pie or karidopita is served in a thick triangle slice that includes orange zest, cognac and semolina. Classic Greek pie fare, like cheese pies, spinach pies, chicken pies, and zucchini pies are taken to an elevated level of quality with homemade phyllo, a variety of fresh greens, and artisanal Greek cheeses, but there are some pies left open to imagination.
Macaroni Truffle Pi is one of palatable curiosity. It consists of penne, Greek yogurt, truffle oil, manouri (a milder Greek sheep’s milk cheese), and feta cheese. Then there is the beautifully stacked Greek lasagna or pastitsio, made with penne, ground beef, tomato sauce, kasseri cheese, and topped with a thick layer of gleaming béchamel sauce. The moussaka, one of their most popular dishes is layered with eggplant, ground beef and potatoes, and was just as beaming in a béchamel glaze. In a city as hurried and as bustling as NYC, Pi Bakerie offers a generous helping of Greek comfort that you can take back to the office with you or take a half-hour to sit down and relax in their café with a cup of locally roasted coffee or a turmeric latte. If caffeine is not your cup of jolt, you can recharge and refuel with a wide selection of herbal teas or a concoction of vegetables and fruits from their juice bar. Other menu offerings include Mediterranean inspired soups, like lentil soup, and salads that include black eyed peas, arugula and Greek Bulgur wheat.
Everything at Pi, from the packaging to the chairs, tables, and artwork on the walls, are imported from Greece. You won’t find any statues of Athena serving wedding cookies or Corinthian columns, but you will find that complex layer of flavor in my favorite melomakarona, honey soaked, cinnamon cookies with a sprinkling of walnuts that come elegantly wrapped and packaged in a signature box. In true Greek philotimo, a Greek word for heartfelt hospitality, Anthi, with her warm smile and sweet as pie gesture, gave me a box to go. With her kind disposition and down-to-earth nature, she is the salt of the earth that puts an extra pinch of spice right back into the sugar that is her baking craft. You can also catch her singing traditional and modern Greek songs throughout various venues in the tri-state area with her band Power Station. She may not sing at your next event or business lunch, but if you want your function catered from start to finish, Pi’s catering menu is a carefully selected list of Greek specialties that can satisfy even the most discerning palate.