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Love, Marianne – THE ROCKAWAY TIMES

By Dan Guarino

Building any business is not easy. But the Rockaway peninsula offers a unique blend of factors that make it a good place to start, especially for its many entrepreneurs.

“Living by the serenity of Rockaway’s beach and having access to the industrious city is such a beautiful combination to create balance in entrepreneurship,” says entrepreneur, yoga teacher, professor, and author Dana Humphrey. A co-founder of Rockaway Creates, which helps Rockaway businesses and creatives network and thrive, Humphrey notes, “Walking on the boardwalk and feeling the salty air helps me to … be more mindful and present … which allows for new ideas and is an ideal recipe for creativity, which I find necessary as a business owner.”

Marianne Bertini, gluten-free baker/owner/founder of Love, Marianne agrees that recipe is a good one. “I feel that Rockaway is a community that supports culinary things,” Bertini said. “It’s a very diverse community. People here are willing to try stuff. You can try and do all kinds of things here!”

Into this mix, Bertini, an Arverne resident, decided to launch her own culinary business venture. Love, Marianne offers a variety of colorful cakes and sweets, plus vegetable dishes, starters, appetizers and more. All made fresh to order, with names like Brown Buttered Brownies, Salted Carmel Bites, “18 Carat” Cake, Cat in the Hat Cake as well as Choi, Roasted Peppers, Franklin, and Moxie.

Love, Marianne’s Facebook page overflows with images of new and different kitchen creations of all kinds, incorporating delicious looking cakes, pies and tarts and creative, fresh from the garden dishes.

Bertini notes, “I also do catering. Anywhere from two to 24 people, at people’s houses. I do everything — I’m the server, the chef, the cleanup, so they can enjoy their party!”

But what makes Love, Marianne stand out is what goes into all her creations, and what doesn’t. “I’m a gluten-free baker. We never know when our allergies or tolerances will flare up. It’s amazing what has gluten in it — salad dressings, sauces, soy sauce.” She also notes it is important how foods are prepared. While French fries might be gluten-free, flour and breadcrumb coated mozzarella sticks deep-fried in the same oil are not.

“Five years ago, it happened to me while I was eating peanut butter pretzels. I felt my stomach pushing out.” Her immediate thought was “Oh no! I’ve developed an allergy to peanut butter!” The next evening, munching plain pretzels, the same thing happened. “I had not developed a peanut allergy, just a gluten allergy!”

“It takes patience, practice to go gluten-free,” Bertini says. “But my home, my baking, is gluten-free.”

Although not a vegan, she will work with creating vegan confections and dishes for her customers, as well as lactose-free items.

Gluten-free products, like flour, were not readily available just a few years ago. But even now, Bertini says, “I have to make my own dough,” and working with different ingredients requires creative calculation to make each dish’s taste, look and texture just right.

“I think that’s why I enjoy this, because there’s a lot of math involved,” says Bertini, a high school math teacher in central New York State and NYC for 22 years.

Other experiences also helped in creating her own business. “I worked for Walmart for seven years, the largest retailer in the world. I learned a lot about how to market and present things. My degree is in marketing. I worked in hospitality — bars, hotels, restaurants.”

Cooking started at an early age. A Facebook photo shows a young Bertini standing at a “Kenner Easy-Bake oven … waiting for the 100-watt incandescent light bulb to heat.”

In the 1980s, she “cooked on a dive boat in the Caribbean. We’d take people out for a week. It’s not like you were going to run out to Stop and Shop. If you didn’t have it on your boat, you didn’t have it. I found a recipe called ‘18 Carrot’ cake. That’s the one I’ve been making ever since.” It’s featured along with her other desserts in their own special section on the menu at Bungalow Bar.

For her Caribbean Rum cake recipe, she now uses King Arthur’s gluten-free flour, a rice flour with tapioca flour and xanthan gum. It’s “the gluten in wheat that makes stick together,” she says.  Bertini often has to find ever creative ways to adapt recipes. “I enjoy the challenge,” she says.

Since retiring, Bertini has taken her business and kitchen acumen into forming her own business. She also began to feed those in need, learning what that’s like from parents who lived through the Great Depression. Labeling each container, she would add “Love, Marianne.” And so, her business name was born.

“I want to offer really great stuff, and not break the bank,” citing an $80 gluten-free chocolate cake someone purchased in Brooklyn. But locally she says, “I’m not looking to compete with the other bakeries. Because they do what they do well. I do what I do.”

“Every day I learn a better way to do something.” Like bringing extra boxes to transfer her cakes into when traveling for smudge-free presentation.

“My name is on my business,” Bertini explains. So she works hard to ensure her “products are well represented, are the best they can be to the extent that I can control.” Like picking her own in-season blueberries. “Oh, sure I can get blueberries, strawberries (anytime) at the supermarket — no. It’s not okay.”

She also adjusts and tests her offerings constantly, citing the NY Dippers, who plunge into Rockaway’s ocean year-round, as her best tasters. “I’ll try things several times, and if I’m not happy with it, it doesn’t even go to the Dippers.”  They, and her husband, have been most supportive, even offering many networking connections for her business.

“My goal really is to find a small place where I can be commercial, a place to bake. I don’t want to open a bakery. I need a place with a commercial oven, and coolers, where I can put my products. That’s my next step.”

“I love taking care of people. I love feeding people,” Bertini says. And every label is still signed “Love, Marianne.”

You can find Love, Marianne on Facebook, online at www.lovemarianne.com, call 607-745-5883, or email [email protected]

Photo courtesy of Love, Marianne.

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