The doughy smell of bagels and garlic saturate his clothes, backpack and gray Honda Accord. After a six-hour day of managing his bagel shop, Luke Vescovi said even though he is not baking or boiling, the aroma of the holey bread follows him home.
Vescovi, a 21-year-old UF masters student, made a name for himself with his mom’s 30-year-old recipe. Luke’s New York Bagels began out of Halo Potato Donuts. From December to March, Vescovi sold plain, sesame, poppy and everything bagels there. Soon, the bagels were high in demand, and customers asked Vescovi when he would open his own place.
After being turned down by property owners and real estate agents, Vescovi and banker Wendy Robertson discovered a brick-and-mortar down the street from Halo Potato Donuts. While the 100-year-old building had limited space and low insulation, they bought it, Vescovi said.
“As a banker and all we went through that first year constantly getting disappointed about this spot or that spot,” Robertson said. “It couldn't have worked out any better.”
Unlike any other bagel shop in Florida, Luke’s New York Bagels bakes the bagels with New York water. As Gainesville water sloshes through the custom watermaker, the system replicates the mineral levels of New York water.
When Vescovi and his parents lived in New Jersey, his mom developed a bagel recipe through baking and attending school in Manhattan, NY. Unlike the Mont-real-style bagels, these New York-style bagels are thick with small holes.
“We went for more of the bigger, denser, fluffier kind that you would get where you eat half of it and you're full for a day,” he said.
Thursdays to Sundays, when they are open, the shop sells 1,200 to 1,300 bagels a day. They usually sell out by 11 a.m., Vescovi said. According to Robertson, lines wrap around the shop because they are the best bagels in town. Every week, she buys about a dozen bagels and freezes them. Her favorite is the asiago, which she called “heavenly.”
“You get that little crunch on the outside and it's fluffy on the inside but there's still a little pull like it should be,” she said. “They just got it nailed.”
Like the bagels, the cream cheese is all made in house, Vescovi said. To him, the cream cheese is time consuming and more difficult to make.
Each week, they release a new bagel item or cream cheese flavor. Along with a vegan tofu spread, they created a vegetable tofu spread with red peppers, celery and carrots. Last week, he introduced a lox bagel, a New York staple sandwich with smoked salmon, tomatoes, onions, capers and cream cheese. Over the weekend, they sold more than 50 pounds of salmon, Vescovi said.
Vescovi said the white dough does not contain eggs or dairy but has a small amount of whey protein.
Even though the shop opened during the pandemic, Vescovi said that the family-run business is flourishing. As his mom bakes in the back, he stands in the front and converses with customers. His dad works the graveyard shift with the bakers, he said.
“We just started talking and then next thing you knew, we just started developing friendships,” Vescovi said. “It's nice because people had free time to talk because there wasn't really anything else to do.”
To celebrate Pride Month, the shop will sell rainbow bagels during the last weekend of June. On the fourth of July, they will also sell red, white and blue bagels.
“We're people who want to be inclusive,” Vescovi said. “It's not because we feel like we have to, it's more just because we want to make everyone try and feel special and even if that's just with bagels, you know that's one thing I guess to start your morning.”
Contact Katie Delk at [email protected] and follow her Twitter at @katie_delk.