BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
When Aigner’s Chocolates, located at 103-02 Metropolitan Ave. in Forest Hills, closed its gates during the summer, a ripple of sadness and disbelief went through the community.
This feeling did not last long, however, as shop owners Peter and Pia Aigner announced that their 85-year long tradition of candy making would continue through a partnership with new owner Mark Libertini and his family, starting with a grand re-opening celebration of Aigner’s Chocolates on Oct. 22.
“It’s nice to see a tradition continue,” Peter Aigner said. “Mark knows his stuff with chocolate. He has a great confectionery background and he’s going to master all of the skills that I have mastered. It will be great for the neighborhood and all of Queens.”
The shop was originally founded by Alfred Krause in 1930. Aigner’s father developed a partnership with Krause after answering his advertisement seeking a professional European chocolatier. Aigner’s family had established roots in the community, with his grandparents already living in Ridgewood.
The Aigner family purchased the business from Krause in 1960 and has served the community from their enchanting Forest Hills storefront for the past 50 years.
“It’s definitely old-world candy making recipes that we use here,” Pia Aigner added. “Everything is made from scratch, no shortcuts.”
The Aigners have been busy passing on their Austrian family recipes, techniques and traditions to Libertini in advance of the store’s re-opening and the upcoming holiday season. The confectioners have been hard at work creating Halloween-themed sweets, including jack-o’-lantern lollipops, chocolate witches and nut cluster cups with ghosts piped onto them.
Libertini also has a long and successful history of crafting sweet treats and confections. He graduated culinary school in 1992 and went on to manage and own several successful eateries. He honed his craft while working as the manager of Buttercup Bakeshop, an offshoot of the popular Magnolia Bakery, in Manhattan. He went on to open Little Cupcake Bakeshop in Bay Ridge, as well as a tapas restaurant shortly thereafter.
On a recent visit to Forest Hills intending to pick up some chocolate at Aigner’s, Libertini saw that the shop was closed. He contacted the family and met with them the same day. According to Libertini, they immediately hit it off and finalized the deal last week.
“I always wanted a chocolate shop,” he explained. “I thought it was a unique opportunity to take over a well-established brand with an 85-year history.”
Despite the new ownership, Libertini promised to keep the Aigner’s menu, traditions and name alive, while also adding his own personal touch to the shop once he becomes more settled.
“The idea for me is to keep the Aigner’s brand and recipes the same,” he explained. “They have a great, rich tradition which I’d like to maintain.”
While Libertini does plan to do some light redecorating, he vows to keep the original equipment and machinery used by the Aigners for decades.
“This is unique because all of the equipment here is from the 1940s and 1950s,” he explained. “Most chocolate shops don’t have this type of equipment. I like the tradition. It’s almost like a confectionary museum. You can’t find this anymore.”
Libertini hopes to introduce some new menu items next year, including chocolate showpieces and his own intricate, hand-piped chocolate cards. He will also be expanding the shop’s coffee menu and hopes to add café tables, making Aigner’s a sweet, intimate date night destination.
“I’m really happy to be here,” Libertini said. “It’s a joy for me to see people’s happiness in the things that I’ve created.”