Driving down main, it is nearly impossible to miss the bantam-sized bright red building with a line of hungry carbo-loaders wrapped around the corner. What are they waiting for? A Luke’s New York Bagel, of course.
The brick-and-mortar location opened its doors, well, windows, to the public in March of 2020, at the surge of a global pandemic. At the forefront of the operation is Luke Vescovi and his parents, Mike and Carolyn, of Brick Township, New Jersey.
Carolyn brought to the table her 30-year knowledge and experience in baking and bagel-making. The craft is certainly no easy task on its own, not to mention the factors that come into play like Florida’s humidity and scaling to meet larger batches. Perfecting the signature Luke’s bagel recipe took nearly two years after sights were set on opening a bagel shop in Gainesville.
With support and dedication from their team of employees, this well-oiled machine now slings about 3,500 bagels per week to a crowd of loyal patrons.
“Those bakers, man, their job is not easy,” said Carolyn, shaking her head as she sprinkles cornmeal across the nearly two dozen baking sheets spread out in front of her. “They’re just amazing.”
A major factor in what sets Luke’s bagels apart from the rest is the water used in their recipe. Luke’s is one of the few restaurants in Florida utilizing the New York WaterMaker device to achieve that true New York bagel taste.
The cream cheese was an entirely separate beast to take on, Luke explained. With every specialty flavor, readjustments have to be made to the recipe. This can mean tireless nights hunched over several vats of spread with no more than a hope and a prayer that the consistency and flavor turn out as intended.
“The cream cheese, we go through like 300 to 400 pounds a week. That’s a lot of cream cheese” Vescovi said with a chuckle.
Spoiler alert: The cream cheese is always on point.
Vescovi has maintained the bagel operation while earning a master’s degree in management from the University of Florida. While this is no ordinary accomplishment, Vescovi attributes his success and sanity to his parents, committed team of employees and of course the community of Luke’s bagel lovers who make it all possible.
It is no wonder that the tiny bagel shop has acquired its ardent following in just under two years of service. From the purist’s toasted sesame bagel with plain cream cheese to layered lox, onion capers and tomato piled high between an everything bagel, what awaits at the bottom of the small, brown paper bag delights time and time again.
Written by Madison Rae