by Tom Hanchett
Christmas may be upon us, but holiday baking is just beginning at New York Pastries & Pasteleria off South Boulevard near Woodlawn Road.
At age 15 Martin Rojas journeyed alone from Tlaxcala, Mexico to New York City where he found work cleaning a Greek bakery. “I never imagined I would be a baker,” he recalls.
His boss recognized a willingness to learn and work hard. He taught Martin to make butter cookies. Then came the Greek braided shortbread called koulouraki, and kourabiedes cookies dusted with powdered sugar and many more. “We worked together nearly 20 years,” says Rojas, his sales assistant Ivon Lopez helping supply some English words. “I looked up to him as a father, my teacher.”
Two years ago the opportunity came to open his own bakery in Charlotte with associate Porfirio Armenta. “Everything is peaceful here,” says Rojas with the joy of a former New Yorker. His NY Pastries & Pasteleria celebrates Greek and also Mexican foodways.
This week he bakes special holiday sweets — in both traditions.
Rosca de reyes is a Mexican ring cake flavored with fruit. It’s eaten on January 6, the date that the Wise Men reached the Christ Child. A small white baby doll is baked into each cake. If it turns up in your slice you must throw a party for your fellow eaters on Candlemas, February 2, the day that Roman Catholics believe baby Jesus was first taken to church.
Vasilopita, from Greece, is more bread-like. It’s eaten on January 1, St. Basil’s day in the Greek Orthodox church, the date when Greeks traditionally open Christmas presents.
Rojas bakes a dime into each vasilopita. If you find it in your slice, you will enjoy good luck throughout the year.
New York Pastries & Pasteleria
Monday – Saturday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
221 E. Exmore St. at Old Pineville Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28217
Center City & nearby
Carolina apple cider
Indian street food
Greens from South Carolina
Upstate NY Italian sausage
Blackberry memories of Brooklyn
Puerto Rican kabobs
South Boulevard, South Tryon & southward
Mexico meets Greece – holiday treats
Cuban box pig
Snack foods from India
SC meets Vietnam @ Lyly’s
El Rinconcito — El Salvador
Arepas Grill — Venezuela
Indian sweets for Diwali
Korean at China Wing
Indian food in south Charlotte
Laurita Tamaleria — Mexican tamales
Fort Mill — real Chinese
Independence Boulevard, Monroe Road & environs
Taste Nigeria in east Charlotte
Secret Greek grocery
Colombian BBQ & snacks
Detroit hot dogs
New York bagels
Haiti on Monroe Road
Iran Kabobs in Matthews
Ramen in Matthews
Peruvian comfort food
Central Av, Albemarle Road & vicinity
Dominican street food
Jamaican black cake
Somali stew and sides
Schawarma from Jerusalem
Greek pastry at Central Coffee
‘Tis the Season for Champurrado
Latino bakery feeds a region
Taste Monterrey, Mexico
Tamales in Plaza Midwood
One restaurant, three Latino traditions
North Tryon, UNCC area & northward
Asian Moon Cakes
Beef on Weck from Buffalo
Dominican fruit shakes, pressed subs
Mexican ice cream
Louisiana Viet crawfish
Salvadoran comfort food
NYC pastries – Lake Norman
The Patio at Our Lady of Guadalupe
NC fish camps
Grits & cornmeal
Laos in Kings Mountain