Steiner's Pastry Shop
432 Plandome Rd., Manhasset, 516-627-2201
Hale, sturdy, possessed of a charming accent and lightly dusted with flour, Franz Steiner is the very model of an Austrian baker. Since 1979, he has presided over Steiner's Pastry Shop in Manhasset, a magnet for lovers of traditional European sweets.
Steiner grew up in Werfen, a town outside of Salzburg that can be glimpsed in "The Sound of Music" scene where Julie Andrews teaches the von Trapp children to sing "Do-Re-Mi." His father was a baker, and he never considered another career. "Back then, you lived right above the store," he recalled. "And when you grew up, you came downstairs and worked in it."
Eventually Steiner and his wife left Austria for the United States, where she had family. (His brother Fritz took over the bakery in Werfen and just retired last year.) In 1979, Steiner bought what for 18 years had been Otto's Bakery. Of course, he introduced a number of Austrian specialties such as almond horns ($3.25) and vanilla-hazelnut crescent cookies ($22 a pound).
He always sells apple strudel, but in the fall he'll occasionally make what he calls "pulled strudel," whose paper-thin dough is hand stretched and rolled around very finely sliced fresh apples.
On a thoroughly American note, Steiner's makes terrific, classic doughnuts, available empty or filled, dusted with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar. "Some bakeries just open a big bag of Pillsbury doughnut mix and add water," he said. "You're not going to find that here."
Another customer favorite is something he learned from his predecessor, Otto: "meltaway" coffee cake ($10, $3.95 for a mini), a flat, deceptively plain confection that packs a sweet, tender punch.