FLOUR SHOPPE CAFE
486 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre
ESSENTIALS: Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; outdoor seating, street parking, accepts major credit cards, no alcohol or reservations, takeout.
Down a muscular stretch of Sunrise Highway in Rockville Centre, a bakery beckons with umbrella-shaded tables, daisies brimming from planters and the promise of sweet treats and a latte inside.
The address has hosted a bakery for a long time. But since Rosemarie Caruso sold Roe’s Casa Dolce in 2010, it hadn’t found a rhythm. Former Roe’s employees Samantha Caltagirone and Madison Kaer saw opportunity when the space became available, so they signed a lease, spiffing it up with tin ceilings, chalkboard menus and kitchen-tool décor. The first-time business owners opened last June.
Though coffee and sweets are a hook for some — especially those peanut butter and homemade marshmallow tartelettes, or the star-shaped brownies — the two needed more than bread, pastries and coffee to survive. So, in November, they partnered with John Maher, formerly of EAT Gastropub in Oceanside.
The place is getting better with time.
Here’s what I like about Flour Shoppe Cafe: In an age of loud restaurants, where noise ricochets off industrial spaces, Flour Shoppe is coffee-shop quiet, yet the room has positive energy and the service is warm. With a focus on expanding the line of baked goods and a chef who’s fluid in sit-down hospitality, I don’t feel like I’m eating in a place focused on quick sales and high turnover.
Breakfast as well as breakfast-for-dinner is a draw. Tartines hit all the savory notes, like the scrambled Florentine, a generous heap of spinach and eggs laced with the sweetness of caramelized onions and a squiggle of Mornay sauce (béchamel, plus Gruyère) for the finish. Served with a side of fruit, it’s an elevated version of diner food — even as it’s served on the school lunch trays turned into plates that are so au courant. I also like the grilled chicken and hot cherry pepper tartine (it probably doesn’t need any eggplant, tomatoes or sauce).
Vegetable fans will like it here, from the simple mixed greens to the green goddess salad, dressed with watermelon radishes swirled pink like candy, along with grapes, cucumbers, pickled eggs and granola over mesclun. The kicker, of course, is the dressing it’s named for, which is lemony and herbal with a whisper of anchovy.
If you’re looking for something with a little heft, there’s the croque madame, with country ham, aged Cheddar, fried egg, Mornay sauce and chives. Or the weekend brunch fan might hold out for banana crumb pancakes, that, with dulce de leche and the real-deal maple syrup, would rank high on any best pancakes list.
Say “yes” to the specials, from a crab chowder or cauliflower Parmesan soup and a grilled cheese, to a chicken potpie that billows from the cast iron like a gossamer hat.
My criticisms are lean: Dress the salads less. Take off an ingredient or two per dish.
Now that Flour Shoppe Cafe has expanded its dinner hours from 7 to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. weekends), Maher said he may introduce an occasional tasting menu, pop-ups or more tailored entrees by winter. For now, he’s gathering string, listening to what diners want before moving toward what’s next.