Stephanie Gallardo and Keavy Landreth had been working on their Bed-Stuy bakery for almost a year when the coronavirus hit New York City, just as they were planning the grand opening in March. Not an ideal situation, to say the least, but fortunately for the duo — who are also part of the team behind the Crown Heights bar-and-bakery Butter & Scotch — their landlord on Rockaway Avenue was understanding, allowing them to buy some time until they could open safely.
Now, finally, Gallardo and Landreth are ready, and just last week Love, Nelly started service, much to the delight of the steady stream of locals who showed up when I visited on Sunday morning.
The name is a tribute to Gallardo's mom, and the friendly, boldly-colored shop specializes in the sorts of treats and snacks that Gallardo grew up with during her summers spent visiting family in Colombia and other parts of South America.
You'll find Raspas — "Colombian Sno-Cones" which Love, Nelly pours over with homemade syrups and tops with crunchy bits of candy. You can invent your own combo from the extensive selection on hand, or order one of the house creations like the delicious Honeychile Rider, a cold and tangy refreshment made from passion fruit syrup, hot honey (it's not too spicy), lime meringues, and sprinkles.
The Love, Nelly empanadas are excellent, and there's an impressive array from which to choose, including a Spinach with Cheese, a Cheese, Plantain, and Guava, and an intriguing sounding Kolache with cheddar, sausage, and "tons of jalapeños."
Next time I'm getting all of those, but on Sunday I went with the Beef empanada, stuffed with ground meat, olives, egg, and raisins, as well as their version of Doubles, the classic West Indian street food, all plump and redolent with curried chick peas. The shells of these two were made with flour dough (traditional and vegan, respectively), and cooked to crackly perfection, and I also really liked the sweeter fried cornmeal casing that housed the salty Queso Fresco.
If you just want something sweet, Love, Nelly has plenty of baked goodies on sale too. The cookies are terrific, from buttery Besitos to gooey Cocoa Locos to rich Alfajores dunked in dark chocolate. Cakes are available, whole or by the slice, and Butter & Scotch fans will be glad to know that the signature Birthday Cake made the trip east. New to Love, Nelly: an insanely dense Dulce de Leche cake, the homemade milk caramel set between layers of rich chocolate cake, and a brighter Tres Leches vanilla cake, with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
The open back kitchen at Love, Nelly is much larger than their setup at Butter & Scotch, and Gallardo and Landreth will be doing the baking for both places here. There were plans to have a few tables inside, and there is one in there right now, but we're living in an outdoor world, so bring your treats home or, like me, wolf them all down while standing on the sidewalk.
Love, Nelly is located at 53 Rockaway Avenue, between Marion and Sumpter Streets, and is currently open on Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (347-240-6951; lovenellybk.com)