Beach 129th Welcomes Panino Rustico-Baya Bar

 Beach 129th Welcomes Panino Rustico-Baya Bar

By Katie McFadden

Head to Belle Harbor and grab yourself a P20, a grilled chicken panini topped with roasted peppers, arugula and basil pesto for lunch, or for breakfast, maybe a crepe with Nutella and fresh strawberries, can give you a sweet start to your day. Perhaps a smoothie is more your speed? Try the 74th Street, an acai, blueberry and banana smoothie with peanut butter, cacao nibs, vanilla whey protein and organic almond milk. All that and more can be found at the brand-new Panino Rustico-Baya Bar on Beach 129th Street.

Two years in the making, starting with the demolition of the old medical center, the rebuild of a brand-new building and waiting on permits, Panino Rustico-Baya Bar finally opened on Labor Day, September 4. The sixth Panino Rustico location and the 24th Baya Bar in New York, the new location on Beach 129th brings the best of both to one spot thanks to partners, Louis Venturelli, Gennaro Sarrubbo and Robert Sestito, with Luis Flores serving as manager.

Sestito, who moved to Rockaway eight years ago, noticed that some things, especially healthy options, were limited in his new neighborhood. Beach 129th immediately caught his eye as an ideal location to fill that need but, at the time, there was no available space. So, he opened his first Baya Bar location, a Brooklyn-based franchise, on Beach 116th Street. But when the medical center on the block went up for sale, opportunity came knocking. Sestito was able to partner on the new event space, Jade Events, and work on opening his next Baya Bar franchise. Venturelli, who founded the original Panino Rustico in Bensonhurst in 2011 was also looking to expand to Rockaway, giving Rockaway customers, who frequented his Mill Basin location, an even closer option. The new space on Beach 129th Street was too large for either business to operate solely, so the guys partnered on bringing it all to one space at 431A Beach 129th Street.

After the new building was created, they made their vision come to life, having artists like Eleni Misetzis come in to give the space a beachy, tropical vibe that is synonymous with Baya Bar franchises, with a little taste of Italy, throwing Panino Rustico’s signature yellow fiat, Lil Panino, into the restaurant design and logo. “It took two years to build this place but we’re really happy with the way it came out,” Venturelli said. “It has the vibe we wanted to convey to the neighborhood,” Sestito added.

On September 4, they finally opened their doors to customers, offering their selection of more than 50 paninis, plus wraps, salads, sweet and savory crepes, coffees, teas and more on the Panino Rustico end and bringing Baya Bar’s fresh fruit smoothie bowls, smoothies, fresh squeezed juices and more to the block. Plus, there’s even alcohol. From a selection of beers to wines, martinis to a classic ol’ fashion, Panino Rustico-Baya Bar has the makings of a good start to your night. Plus, there’s more to come. As fall and winter roll in, the location will warm customers right up with a selection of soups and there’s even talk of a Sunday brunch coming soon.

The guys are relieved to have their doors open. “It’s been very good,” Gennaro said. “It’s fantastic,” Venturelli said. “It feels really good. We’re super excited about coming to the neighborhood. When you open in a new neighborhood, you never know how people are gonna take you, and so far, they’ve been taking to us very well, and we’re already getting a lot of repeat customers.”

Some are even longtime repeat customers who first discovered Panini Rustico in Brooklyn and are happy to have a location now even closer to home. Two of those customers include Joanne Carone and John Viverito, who stopped in for the second time at the new spot on Tuesday. “We used to live in Mill Basin and would go to the store on Avenue N, and now we live in the Rockaways and we’re very happy to see this place open. We love the Baya Bar also. I already brought my grandson here for lunch and we loved it and now we’re here for breakfast,” Carone said as she enjoyed an avocado toast. They say the new location is just as good as the others. “We’ve gone to Avenue N, and it’s always been absolutely perfect,” Viverito said. “This is the same way. Everything is still so fresh and the ladies who work here and the chefs are just wonderful—very complimentary and accommodating.” They already have personal favorites on the menu. For Carone, it’s the W7, a prosciutto and goat cheese wrap with arugula and fig glaze, and Viverito says he’ll take any choice off of the wrap menu.

No matter what people choose to order, the guys can offer one guarantee. Not only is the food delicious but as Sestito says, “Everything’s fresh.” Each item is made to order with fresh ingredients sourced mostly by Panino Rustico’s loyal Brooklyn-based vendors, delivered daily.

Panino Rustico-Baya Bar is open seven days a week, opening at 10 a.m. on Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and closing at 9 p.m. every day except Sundays, when they close at 4 p.m. They offer dine in, take out, and delivery. To order, call 718-210-2220 or place an order through the Toast app. For more info and updates, including news of their upcoming grand opening celebration in October, make sure to follow paninorustico_bayabar_rockaway on Instagram.

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