This ‘Sweet Genius’ of cooking in Long Island City offers something tasty for everyone

After brushing his teeth in the morning, the next thing that chef Michael Romano thinks about is making the croissants at his restaurant, QWNS Café in Long Island City.

Romano arrives at his restaurant every day by 4:30 a.m. to gingerly place trays of the soon-to-be-flakey pastry in something called a proof box, a tall metal cabinet used to warm bread, in order to make them rise. His croissants — both traditional and vegan — are his pride and joy.

The chef not only prides himself on being a committed and creative chef, but also on a restaurant, and menu, that consciously works to be inclusive to all its community members. As people evolve and new dietary restrictions or habits start to pop up, QWNS Café works to feed everyone.

“Vegans are an afterthought or even a nuisance for some chefs,” Romano said. This is not the case at QWNS Café, which specializes in vegan and gluten-free pastries. Romano has perfected his in-house vegan butter, which he uses to laminate QWNS’ vegan croissants.

A vegan croissant from QWNS Café. Customers are often surprised to find out they are not made with real butter.
A vegan croissant from QWNS Café. Customers are often surprised to find out they are not made with real butter.

QWNS Café offers more than just pastries. Romano has worked as primarily a pastry chef for over a decade and was the winner of Food Network’s competitive baking show “Sweet Genius” in 2012. But despite his background and obvious love for pastry creation, he puts just as much heart into the salads, sandwiches and sides that make the majority of the menu at the café, which is split between vegan, gluten-free and “gluten-lover” options. He applies the precision of a pastry artist to every meal.


Avocado toast from QWNS Café
Avocado toast from QWNS Café

“I remember a woman that couldn’t eat black pepper,” said Romano. ” I literally went through every item on the list to see what I could do and ended making something just for her.”

For the chef, every day is another opportunity to chase the feeling of a job well. According to the Romano, his work is all about improving the lives of others.

“When you hand people a baked good, no matter how bad their day or what is going on in their life, people light up.”

For more information about menu items, visit www.qwnscafe.com.