Bare Naked Bakery & Cafe
2572 Merrick Rd. Bellmore, NY 516-809-7370
Bridget Brennan knew she was on to something from the comments she overheard at her newly opened gluten-free bakery-cafe: "Omigod, mommy. Can I really have everything?" gushed one child. An older patron sighed, "I haven't had a Reuben in years."
Local restaurants have become increasingly accommodating to patrons with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease -- a disorder that renders the sufferer unable to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. But to Brennan, that wasn't enough. "When you're on a special diet," she said, "eating out can feel awkward, even humiliating. It creates emotional issues that go beyond the digestive tract."
Brennan's gluten-free journey began in 2005, when her sister was put on a wheat-free diet. Because gluten intolerance runs in families, Brennan herself stopped eating wheat about three years ago and found that her own symptoms of bloating and fatigue quickly vanished.
In July 2010, she opened Long Island's first gluten-free eatery. Bare Naked's menu offers sandwiches and panini, salads, pizzas, pizza rolls, bagels, pretzels, muffins and pastries. Everything is made on the premises, and everything is 100-percent gluten free.
Brennan had no desire to open a little, out-of-the-way sort of establishment which, she felt, would only reinforce the idea that gluten-free patrons are living on the fringe of culinary society. Accordingly, Bare Naked occupies a free-standing structure on Merrick Road - with parking. The dining room is spacious and sunny and so smartly decorated that many people assume it's a branch of a national chain.
Perhaps one day, it will be.
-- ERICA MARCUS
Photo: Bridget Brennan, owner of Bare Naked Bakery & Cafe in Bellmore, opened Long Island's first gluten-free bakery in July 2010. (Newsday / Erica Marcus / Aug. 20, 2010)