There’s a new food-themed bookstore café in Greenpoint and it’s prime to deliver on the holiday needs of food-and-word fans.
Founded by quirky, brainy Brooklynite Paige Lipari, Archestratus Books lays out an inviting print and pastry spread that’s playful and serious, traditional and unconventional. Inspired by her love of books, food, art and Sicily, she’s stacked the front of the store with everything from cookbooks, how-to’s, history and poetry to fiction, foraging, kids, zines, DIY and camp — all food related — while the back of the house is packed with Mediterranean-inspired housemade baked goods both savory and sweet that pair nicely with the coffee, tea, beer and wine on offer. Lipari refers to it simply as a “a place for books and food.”
According to Lipari, the range of texts goes from classics like Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking to Johnny Rotten’s memoir Rotten, “because rotting is a food metaphor.” Indeed, finding the amusing interpretive leaps of “food themed” among the impressive collection of new, used and rare M.F.K. Fisher among others is half the fun; a nod to the shop’s fourth-century BC Sicilian namesake, Archestratus, a poet and locavore who’s credited with writing the world’s first cookbook seasoned with humor throughout.
“He wrote The Life of Luxury,” says Lipari. “It’s just like what we’re talking about now, all about sourcing the best ingredients.” She paraphrases an example: “You should get this fish from this town and if you can’t get it from this town then you shouldn’t eat it, and if they won’t sell it to you then you should steal it and face the consequences.”
Along with her humor, the 28-year-old descendent of Sicilian-Brooklyn grocers brings her life’s experience to the curation of the store — drawing on her Italian roots, her love of reading, college studies of music, poetry and art, as well as a work background at McNally Jackson, Barnes & Noble and the rare books section of Housing Works.
What’s more, classes, dinner parties, readings, screenings, tastings, performances and a book club are unfolding. Says Lipari, “If it’s too simple it kind of doesn’t interest me. If things are too on the nose. That’s why events have to happen and art elements, there have to be stories behind everything; it can’t just be like a class on technique, it has to be relating to the person, it has to be relating to a book, it has to be relating to music or something. So ‘a place for books and food,’ that’s where I like to end it. Because after then I can get a little crazy.”
For holiday gifts, Lipari says, “A lot of women are coming out with amazing cookbooks,” and cites Heidi Swanson’s follow up to 101 Cookbooks called Near and Far, which she recommends for “your mother or your friend that’s really into healthy cooking.” Other picks include Brooklyn-based The Bien Cuit Breadbook (“really specific and instructional with a lot of photographs”). In addition to the new releases and “zines, food zines, comic books,” Lipari emphasizes that Archestratus is the place to “get the little used treasures that you can’t find anywhere else.”