Desserts are draw for Side Door

By Nathan Duke

Astoria restaurateur Gary Anza could be the only business owner in the neighborhood to have been inspired by the 10-day blackout of 2006 to open a new eatery.

Anza, who owns Bistro 33 on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, said he realized that the community had been left with few choices for dessert and ice cream after the 2006 power outage caused several local eateries, including Carvel and Cold Stone Creamery, to close. In early September, he opened Side Door, a coffee shop that serves a variety of ice cream flavors and desserts, a few doors down from Bistro 33.

“When the blackout happened, a number of businesses went down and there was no one serving ice cream on this side of Ditmars,” Anza said. “There’s a lot of housing over here, so we thought, ‘Why not open a little coffee spot and serve dessert?’”

Side Door, located at 21-76 21st St., serves coffee, lattes, smoothies, milkshakes, sundaes, ice cream, sorbet, brownies, truffles and muffins as well as some lunch items, including panini and sandwiches.

Anza, who was trained in French cooking but worked at a variety of Japanese restaurants in Manhattan before opening his own businesses, said that Bistro 33 primarily serves Japanese-American cuisine and its most popular dish is roasted tuna foie gras. But that restaurant also offers a wide variety of desserts, such as chocolate souffle and bread pudding with peanut butter sauce.

He said he was inspired to open Side Door based on the rising popularity of Bistro 33’s desserts.

“I have a feeling our bread pudding will take off,” he said. “I have people coming in from Manhattan to have it.”

The coffee shop’s design is as unique as the variety of Japanese ice creams on its menu. Most of the site’s interior was constructed from recycled material through Astoria’s Build It Green, a nonprofit that specializes in salvaged and surplus building materials.

“Everything is recycled from something,” Anza said. “It’s a completely green project.”

The coffee shop’s counter was formerly a construction fence, while its moldings and ceiling were constructed from recycled materials.

Anza said he hopes to eventually expand his cafe’s services by providing live entertainment, such as book readings or musical performances. Its lunch menu may also eventually present more options.

“Our panini menu and hours will grow,” he said. “And the more we get settled into a groove, the more homemade ice cream we’ll serve.”

Side Door is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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