In Long Island, New York, Bree Licata grew up frequenting Italian American bakeries that stocked dozens of varieties of cookies and pastries. Customers would eye up trays of baked goods in a pastry case, order what they want, and their selections would be boxed up and priced by weight. Licata’s family was one that had always leaned toward cooking rather than baking, depending on these bakeries to sate sweet cravings; still, Licata picked up a love of baking as a hobby at age 18, zhuzhing up boxed cake mixes as a start.
On Wednesday, November 15, Licata will open Flour Bloom, where she’ll share some of the Italian American delicacies she misses most from the East Coast — things like Italian butter cookies and rainbow cookies — with her own fun twists, serving pastel pastries and affogatos topped with espresso-infused whipped cream and edible glitter in a disco-vibed, plant-filled cafe.
Licata’s local baking resume lists jobs at the now-defunct Alessio Baking Company and Grand Central Baking; she also ran the pastry program at Pine State Biscuits and worked within Salt & Straw’s commissary kitchen. For a time, she moved back to New York, where she got a crash course in Italian American pastry. “That was really my time to learn Italian baking,” Licata says. “I got to learn a lot of things that hit [close to] home, which was really nice.”
While many of the East Coast Italian bakery standards will appear in Flour Bloom’s pastry case, Licata wanted her pastries to also feel at home in Portland. Flour Bloom bakes its cookies in pastel colors, and, in a nod to Oregon, the shop’s rainbow cookies include Alchemist’s Jam’s marionberry flavor in addition to the traditional raspberry filling. The bakery is developing gluten-free and vegan versions of many of its pastries, as well.
Another New York staple folks will be able to find at Flour Bloom is a bacon, egg, and cheese. “Every time I go back to New York, I almost have a [B.E.C.] every morning because I miss it so much,” Licata says. “So it was really kind of a selfish thing of wanting to have them here.” Her extensive experience with breads means the bakery will serve its sandwiches on fresh Kaiser rolls. The breakfast sandwiches will be available with ham or as a vegan bacon, egg, and cheese.
The bakery’s interior — a stylish space adorned with disco balls, a groovy mural, plants, and dried floral installations by the Angry Florist — is an homage to Licata’s mom, who works as a disco event manager. “Flour Bloom’s vibe is very similar to my mom, but I also want people to walk in and feel like it’s their aunt’s basement,” Licata says. “Like the one who never throws anything away so she has all this really cool stuff from the ’70s... and she’s like, ‘Don’t touch it, but I’ll tell you a really cool story about it later.’” Licata is a self-described plant hobbyist and wants to use her space to build community, so she also decided to include a retail area with a plant section and wares like ceramics and macrame from local makers. Beginning in January, vendors will rotate every three months.
The seeds of the project were first planted when Licata and her husband returned to Portland from New York — it was right around when the COVID-19 pandemic began, which brought about a turning point in her career. “I got to a point where I realized that if I went back to work it was not going to be for somebody else,” Licata says. “I wanted to wake up every morning and be able to put things out on the shelf that I enjoy and love but also want to share with people who may or may not have tried it.”
Flour Bloom will open at 103 NE Grand Avenue.
Correction: November 10, 2023, 9:26 p.m. This article was corrected to show that Flour Bloom’s opening date is Wednesday, November 15.