Thursday, July 19, 2012


I passed by Lafayette French Pastry in the West Village yesterday and was happy to see for myself - the front gate locked - the fate this place deserved for years.

This bakery was the second iteration of a once appealing neighborhood shop on Bleecker near Seventh Avenue. The first location was stocked with "Napoleons" and eclairs and presented a tempting front window in the heart of the Village. It was cramped and a little disheveled, but the pastries were good, in a food time when good was good enough. The original Lafayette French Pastry was the father. This most recent location, the son. It moved to Greenwich Avenue near 10th Street more than a decade ago, and what a long way down in one generation.

It would be nice to talk about the baking when talking bakeries, but the second Lafayette French Pasty forced a change of subject. In January 2009, Ted Kefalinos, the baker, the son, made a disgrace of himself and the business his father began with an act of unvarnished racism: he made grotesque-looking chocolate-covered pastries and put them on sale as "Drunken Negro Cookies." He made clear that his creation reflected his feelings on the recent election of Barack Obama. It created a stir, presumably just as the baker wanted.

It's a shame the place wasn't shut then and there, and I've been amazed it hung in this long. Like a wounded creature being put out of its misery, U.S. Marshalls seized the shop Tuesday.

In a curious piece of media on the story, Robert Sietsema of The Village Voice, after recounting in detail the infamy of the racist episode, waxes nostalgic:

"Nevertheless, as a vestige of the old West Village with all its French and beatnik pretensions, it will be missed, a place worth looking in the window of from time to time, but almost never entered."

" will be missed...?!"

I'm sorry, that's too generous. I'm all for nostalgia about Greenwich Village storefronts of yesteryear, but not this one. Lafayette French Pastry won't be missed, nor should it be. It betrayed the ideal of a neighborhood bakery and was a pariah in its community. Good in every possible way that its gone.

Whoever takes over the space should buy a big sprig of dried sage and walk around in circles to get rid of the karma in that place. 

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