After a year of rampant rumors and speculation throughout the community, The Wave has learned that a Panino Rustico/Baya Bar hybrid restaurant will open in the new storefronts currently under construction at 431 Beach 129th Street in Belle Harbor, where the medical offices were once located.
“Panino [Rustico] is going to be the main focus for that location, but it will have a full Baya Bar menu in it,” Mike Veccia, the owner of Mill Basin’s Panino Rustico, told The Wave.
Like its original location in Bensonhurst and its Mill Basin and two Staten Island locations, Beach 129th Street’s Panino Rustico will offer a menu of 50 different sandwiches, salads, soups, wraps, and their specialty crepes, as well as a coffee and espresso bar. The partnership with Baya Bar will add smoothies, juices, protein shakes, and acai bowls to the restaurant’s assortment.
For this location, Veccia, who has a stake in both Panino Rustico and Baya Bar, will be working with Robert Sestito and Matt Zarrello, his business partners from the Baya Bar on Beach 116th St. When that location opened on May 14, it offered only the coffee bar from Panino Rustico, allowing Baya Bar to be at the forefront. The forthcoming Beach 129th Street location, however, will put Panino Rustico at the forefront with the full menu and seating for customers throughout the restaurant.
“This is the first time that it’s coming together in the same house,” said Veccia. “116th is the first time, and 129th will be the second time.”
“The reason why we did the coffee bar on 116th was we just wanted to spread the brand a little bit and start the relationship that we have with Panino [Rustico] and Berry [Bar] together in one location,” Veccia added. “Also, because we were doing it on 129th, we wanted it to be uniform with 116th so we thought it would work out nicely to have both locations going.”
Veccia was a frequent customer of the Panino Rustico in Bensonhurst and eventually proposed expanding the brand to his friend and the owner/founder Louis Venturelli. As a result, Panino Rustico’s second location at Mill Basin opened in July 2017.
Baya Bar, a franchise business started by Bill Loesch in 2016, first opened in Bay Ridge before expanding to over 20 locations across the country. Veccia was responsible for bringing the acai shop to Mill Basin.
“I kind of brought both worlds together,” explained Veccia. “I was doing both of them at the same time, and then, this opportunity came up to be in Rockaway, and I thought it would be great for the Rockaway community.”
With the construction making progress, Veccia expects and hopes for the new Panino Rustico/Baya Bar location to open on Beach 129th Street sometime in October.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Veccia teased. “There’s a very big transformation going on in Rockaway…it’s going to be a great, great vibe for 129th.”
This news comes one year after numerous rumors of Pico RBNY, East Meets West, and/or A&S Pork Store possibly moving into the space upon the construction’s completion.
In July 2021, the rumor regarding A&S Pork Store, located at 361 Avenue X in Brooklyn, was debunked by Austin Sullivan, the manager of A&S At The Harbor – the pork store’s associated catering company that operates out of the Belle Harbor Yacht Club on 533 Beach 126th Street. Sullivan confirmed to The Wave that there was no truth to the rumor, and they would not be opening a butcher shop on 129th street.
As for East Meets West, already located on Beach 129th street and owned by Bill Keating and Karen Keating-Gleason, the restaurant declined to comment last summer.
“We are not making any comments at this time,” East Meets West released in a statement to The Wave in August 2021. “If and when the time is appropriate, we will reach out.”
Pico RBNY will definitely not be moving into the space.