Thirty years ago, an uncle and a nephew from Riverdale opened a bagel shop with no expectations. Today, Riverdale Bagels is recognized as the most iconic bagel shop in NYC by food blog Eater NY.
Riverdale Bagels, located at 5650 Riverdale Ave. in the Bronx, was founded by Vincent (Enzo) Tardinuovo, 81, and his nephew Joe Tardinuovo, 56. They worked in the food industry for many years and Enzo Tardinuovo would often frequent a bagel shop near his job in Long Island. Eventually, the love of bagels overwhelmed him, and he decided to open his own store.
They took a leap of faith, quit their jobs and set out to learn the secrets of a great bagel. Early in July 1992, they drove to New Jersey at 2:30 a.m. where they were taught the tools of the trade at a school. With many years of baking pizza and doughnuts under their belt, they just needed to understand what ingredients went into making bagels.
But, after just two hours of training they left and were set to embark on their new venture.
“He (Enzo) knew how to make dough,” Riverdale Bagels General Manager Enzo Feriangi told the Bronx Times. “He said, ‘there was nothing for me to learn that I already didn’t know.’”
According to Feriangi, 77, they wanted a space in Riverdale, not only because it was home, but because of the large Jewish population. However, finding a storefront was difficult. They searched for about a year and a half until they finally settled on an 800-square-foot space on Riverdale Avenue. At first it was just Enzo Tardinuovo, his wife and Joe Tardinuovo baking bagels, and selling coffee and cream cheese.
They took a few days to perfect the bagels before opening the doors, Feriangi said.
“The first batch of bagels came out like baseballs,” he added. “I think the real challenge was with themselves being nervous because mostly they knew what they had to do, but this was a new field.”
After a few months, the jitters wore off and the community slowly began to fall in love with the place, Feriangi said. Feriangi joined the company in 1993, and a couple years later Joe Tardinuovo left.
Over the years it has become a second home for Feriangi, his staff and Riverdale residents.
In the beginning, the big sellers were salmon, herring, sable and other fish, popular Jewish delicacies in what was once a prominently Jewish neighborhood. But as the demographics of the community changed, the eatery introduced eggs, sandwiches and paninis to name a few.
The shop never hired a baker and does not use Uber Eats or Grubhub, yet still is a popular place with quick efficient service that has served three generations of families, Feriangi said.
“The kids became parents, and I’m feeding their kids,” he added.
Feriangi told the Bronx Times it was nice to be recognized as the most iconic bagel shop by Eater NY, but what’s more important, he said, is providing good quality food and service.
“Faithfully furnishing bagels, bialys, and muffins to its northern Bronx neighborhood since 1992, Riverdale Bagels guarantees its bagels are boiled and not steamed,” Eater NY said in its review. “All the traditional toppings are available, but innovative spreads are being developed on a daily basis, including spicy bacon, garlic pepper, and sundried tomato cream cheeses.”
The staff doesn’t skimp on food, has maintained the same recipe for 30 years and the majority of the employees have been there from the beginning.
“We don’t change anything,” Feriangi said. “We stay with the same products and the same coffee people are used to.”
Feriangi said they have never cared about their competition and places like Dunkin.’ Where else can be people get delicious scallion, cherry pepper or walnut raisin cream cheese?
Their name is not just synonymous with Riverdale though. According to employee Alex Nava, customers come from as far as Pennsylvania.
“I think this is a destination point because when I hear people talking, they say ‘I’ll meet you at the bagel shop,’ and that makes you feel good,” Feriangi said.
While they don’t make the fancy rainbow or gluten free bagels, they offer plain, poppy, sesame, whole wheat, cinnamon raisin and everything bagels as staples. But it works, because the store is always packed.
“You ask me where did the time go?” Feriangi said. “I have no idea. The business it teaches you a lot. One hundred percent satisfaction that’s the way we work here.”
Reach Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes