After 23 years, Luisa Olivera is now living her dream in Babylon Village.
Back in 1998, the Chilean native moved to Long Island seeking a better life. Her goal one day was to open up a cafe — a place where she could share recipes from her old home with her new one in the U.S.
“I’ve always wanted to open my own place,” she said. “I love cooking and making baked goods.”
When she first immigrated to the U.S., she quickly landed a job doing window treatments and upholstery for an interior design company in Oyster Bay. While living in that area, she stumbled upon a four-foot-long decorative fork and spoon at a yard sale.
“I told my co-workers I am going to keep it for when I open my cafe,” said the 57-year-old. “They laughed and told me to throw it away, it’s junk.”
Now, the first thing you see when you walk into Babylon Village’s new Nz-Grei Cafe and Bakery are those adornments hanging on the back wall.
She launched her venture last month in the former Fire Island Shave Ice at 134 North Carl Avenue.
“Now it’s time to do my dream,” said Olivera, smiling.
At her shop, she features a variety of authentic Chilean baked goods, to-go dishes, and soups.
One of her favorites is the berlines.
“They are soft dough balls filled with dulce de leche and bavarian cream,” she explained, “So yummy!”
Some of the other Chilean classics served up at the cafe include:
- Alfajores: Chilean cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche
- Calzones Rotos: Sweet deep-fried donut with powdered sugar
- Sopaipillas: a savory deep-fried donut made from sqaush, mustard, and powdered sugar.
Because of its similarities to European delights, many locals with oversea ethnicities have enjoyed the Chilean items, says Olivera.
“A French man came in and said he could close his eyes and feel like he was in France [after eating here],” she said.
Her recipes hail from some of the top Chilean baking and cooking minds she knows.
“All of my recipes come from my grandma, sisters, aunts — everybody sends me their recipe,” said the Brentwood resident.
That includes Nelly’s Pebre — a recipe for the popular Chilean salsa that pays homage to Olivera’s late granddaughter.
“I taught her how to make it, and then she started making it better than I did,” said Olivera.
Since opening, Nz-Grei Cafe and Bakery has been making a name for itself on the Long Island scene.
West Babylon resident and Chilean native Carla Vattuone heard of the opening and visited the store.
“It tastes just like home,” said Carla, noshing into a Chilean Hot Dog, which is a hot dog topped with chopped tomatoes, avocados, mayonnaise, and string beans.
Vattuone was ecstatic to have a place that serves up her favorite eats right in her neighborhood.
“Now I don’t have to go to Valley Stream; that’s the only place on Long Island to get Chilean food,” said Vattuone.
Nz-Grei, which is an abbreviation for Olivera’s grandchildren, is open Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Scroll down to see photos of the eatery.