Nitín: A sweet classic
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Got a sweet tooth?
The best cure in town is Nitín Bakery.
In fact, it is the best cure in two towns.
The first Nitín Bakery was founded decades ago in Santo Domingo.
“I’d say 45 or 50 years ago,” projected Atilano Blandino.
While there is someone in Santo Domingo who knows precisely how old the original Repostería Nitín is, like many legends, the facts are generally shrouded in speculation.
What can be said for certain is that three Nitín Bakeries have also sprouted up in New York City. There is one in northern Manhattan, Corona, Queens, and one in the Bronx.
All are owned and operated separately, but each shares distinct pride in its shared namesake.
Blandino is the president of the Nitín Bakery at 183rd Street and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.
Miguelina Pérez has worked at the Bronx’s Nitín Bakery for 17 years now—but her memories predate those two decades.
“I used to live ten minutes away,” she said, smiling at fond, sugar-coated recollections of her childhood visits to Nitín Reposteria in the Dominican Republic.
Her favorite offering at the original bakery, as it is for many generations, was the classic Domincan cake, or el bizcocho dominicano.
Central to any celebration, or just an afternoon’s delight, el bizcocho dominicano is known for an incredibly delicate texture, spongy mouth-feel and aching sweetness.
The cake is often presented as a layer cake, and filled with one’s choice of candied fruit filling. Among the most popular are guava, vanilla, and strawberry.
And the cake is rarely home-made; families often rely on master bakers, such as those at Nitín, to create just the right pastry (which, depending on the size and formal nature of the celebration, can sometimes mean a 10-lb. cake).
Far from the kind of enterprise easily undertaken with a box mix, a few eggs and a couple of whisks, el bizcocho dominicano is an intensive labor of love, as it requires hours of preparation, additional hours of execution and an infinite amount of care and patience.
One misstep, and the baker’s work is easily undone.
And it looks it too: el bizcocho is often elaborately decorated, with a thick white sugar frosting and a bevy of bright frosted colors that rival any verdant field.
Designs can include many, many tiers, and additional details, such as caramelized or glazed fruits to adorn the cake, are popular.
When Blandino opened his bakery on the Concourse over 20 years ago, he said he couldn’t simply rely on the fame of the original Nitín Bakery’s name to attract business.
“Quality is not based on nomenclature,” he said.
Rather, it is based on his Nitín Bakery’s “special formula,” he explained.
While the key ingredients of bizcocho dominicano, which include flour, butter, margarine, milk, vanilla, heavy cream and sugar, are widely known, each recipe is different.
“The secret is in the quantity [of each],” said Blandino, who was not about to divulge the portions of each ingredient he puts into his recipe.
There are other distinguishing factors.
“We do not use chemicals. That is important,” said Blandino.
He noted that Nitín Bakery only used the highest quality ingredients, and that the vanilla is imported straight from the Dominican Republic.
For its efforts, the Nitín Bakery in the Bronx has approximated the famed bizcocho dominicano enjoyed at La Reposteria Nitín in Santo Domingo.
“Oh, they compare,” said Pérez, with a knowing laugh.
“I’ve tried cake from every place. If you want a slice of Dominican cake, get it here,” implored Carlos Rodríguez, who has been a Bronx resident for over 30 years.
Still, Rodríguez was not in on that afternoon to get bizcocho, which is also offered at the bakery by the slice if an entire cake is a bit much.
He and his son, Luigi, came in to quell a hankering for donuts and muffins, which are also made fresh at Nitín.
But they will be ordering un bizcocho dominicano soon enough.
The Rodriguez family has a child on the way, and they will be placing an order when the time comes.
In the meantime, Rodríguez will be ordering the occasional slice of bizcocho from Nitín Bakery whenever his wife has cravings.
“She always says, ‘You know where to go!’,” he chuckled.
2312 Grand Concourse
The Bronx, New York 10458