I Sat Down with the Owners of Bobo's Café, Westchester's Answer to NYC Café Culture.

Every neighborhood needs their Central Perk, a coffee shop that functions as more than a place to grab your iced coffee with an extra shot of espresso, and, on particularly rough mornings, an over sized muffin. You know, the kind of café that invites you to linger, to sit down with friends and chat for hours over croissants, paninis, and whatever other carbs pair well with coffee. It's the kind of coffehouse that's the focal point of a community, a place that somehow bends the borders between Baby Boomers and Generation Z to become a great equalizer. In Somers, New York, an hour north of NYC and teeming with suburban quiet, that restaurant is Bobo's Café

What is Bobo's Café?

Known to locals as just Bobo's, Bobo's Café is the center of Somer's tight-knit universe. Opened three years ago by Craig and Glen Bernardi, brothers and Somers natives, Bobo's easily slotted itself into a community full of pizza shops and delis. By offering elevated café fare, like avocado toast topped with pico de gallo and smoothie bowls made to order, this family-owned business challenges the notion that Westchester is boring. With it's fun menu, homey decor, and unrivaled hospitality, Bobo's feels like it should be tucked on a corner in Williamsburg.

Who Owns Bobo's?

Bobo's is owned by brothers Glen and Craig Bernardi, aged 28 and 23 respectively. Veterans of the local hospitality industry, having grown up working in local pizzarias, delis, and nightclubs, the pair believes "their passion for food and entrepreneurship was inevitable."

Moreover, Craig and Glen are major foodies. "We plan out our day by where we're getting food, and how this meal will transition into lunch, and then to dinner," says Craig. This unabashed love for all things culinary is perhaps what makes Bobo's so great. The brothers' desire to expand their palattes and try new recipes influences the menu makes each trip to Bobo's a little different. And, as far as I'm concerned, that makes each trip to Bobo's better. 

I sat down with the owners of Bobo's to discuss their beginnings, their future, and how Bobo's contributes to making Somers a better, more inclusive community. 

How Did Bobo's Begin?

Bobo's origins are rooted in chance. Taking over the space previously owned by Tazza, a local chain of coffee shops, Bobo's is grounded in neighborhood connections and familial relationships. 

"We used to come here a lot when it was Tazza, and we built up a pretty good relationship with the previous owners," say the Bernardis, "One day, for the hell of it, we asked if they were looking to sell the space. The owners were actually looking to get out [ of the lease] at the same time we wanted to start something. So, Bobo's was very much based on timing."

Furthermore, Bobo's is very much the product of a strong family bond. The restaurant is named after Craig and Glen's grandfather, whose Mt. Veron deli spawned an interest in hospitality spanning generations. "He was well-respected in the community for always treating everyone the same way. He treated everyone fair, and that's what we try to implement here," says Glen on how their grandfather's namesake influences the business. 

In keeping with this tradition, Bobo's began as a father and son project. " Our dad gives us advice whether we want it or not. When we first started, we didn't know what to expect, so we leaned on him a lot. But, as we've grown more comfortable, he's taken a step back to hang out and hold court here, " says Craig.

And hold court he does. Mr. Bernardi is a much a permenant fixture of Bobo's an iced latte or BEC, sitting at a large round table to discuss community events with whomever is interested. His presence, perhaps, serves as a connector between Somers' past and vibrant future, further cementing Bobo's as a true neighborhood spot. 

What's on the Menu?

Yes, you'll find your standard 21st century cafe mainstays at Bobo's: croissants, muffins, avocado toast, and of course, all the latte concoctions you can imagine. But, when you step into Bobo's, I challenge you to order something you can't find on a Starbucks menu — a smoothie bowl. 

Offered in açaí, pitaya, matcha, and spirulina varieties, these bowls are the centerpiece of the Bobo's experience. Topped with anything from fresh fruit to granola to nutella, each bowl is made to order with an attention to detail begging to be Instagrammed. 

When asked about how Bobo's Cafe came to be the originator of this trend in Westchester, Craig says, "I was in coastal Florida and I had a pitaya bowl. The first thing I did was call Glen to figure out how to recreate one. When I came back, we sat in the kitchen and messed around with recipes until we came up with one that stuck. But seeing how the high school audience reacted pushed us to perfect the recipe." 

This quest for perfect is evident in Bobo's ever evolving menu. The sandwich board switches seasonally, but between equinoxes, the owners are constantly finding ways to improve. To them, the menu is always a draft. It's not wholly complete until every dish satisfies the Bobo's Cafe mission: "to appeal to everyone, age 5 to 95."

"Midway through we brought on Nick, a childhood friend of Craig's who happened to go to culinary school. How we pick the menu is still the same, but Nick elevates all of our ideas into something edible, " says Craig, " But, we try to stay creative and do things on a whim. When we feel like changing things up, we change them. But we pay attention to our audience. If people miss things, we bring them back and someone makes a suggestion about taste, we listen." 

Still, the brothers do have their favorites. Craig loves to make cappucinos, focusing on perfecting his almond milk swirl, while both brothers love to eat avocado toast. The pair's commitment to the menu is evident in every waffle or iced matcha with a pump of raspberry. They love the community and its ready acceptance of young entreperneurship, giving back to it through high quality food and subtle nods to their upbringing. 

What Makes Bobo's Cafe Special?

Bobo's appeals to everyone. From the elderly, who nurse a cup of coffee and read a book all day, to the teenagers bustling with excitement to order a pitaya bowl and chat outside, everyone views Bobo's as their slice of Somers. No restaurant has ever managed to reach mass appeal without shortchanging someone. And yet, here Bobo's is, with an ever expanding fanbase that panders both to the first time customer and the regular. 

"We already knew what our returning customers liked. But as we were growing and changing, it was important to keep everyone happy. To do that, we just ask questions. If we're changing something, we ask the customers, "What do they think of it?" Essientially, you're the ones eating the food, so we like to hear your opinions," says Glen on the secret to Bobo's success. 

So, simply put, you must "treat everybody well and accomodate everyone" in order to create a business that transcends the role of food service. Bobo's, thanks to its grassroots origins, is very much an agent of change in Somers.

A community that holds on to its virulent past, little has changed in the neighborhood. The same pizzeria doles out slices during the lunch rush, the same creamery still the vocal point of our summer, and the same 24-hour deli still the only place to celebrate a football win. That was, until Bobo's opened.

Now, the neighborhood is changing. New restaurants, serving more than our standard Italian fare, are opening up quickly. More and more young folks, like myself, are chosing a day by the pool with a Bobo's grilled cheese over a trip to Manhattan. Suddenly, there are things to do and places to be in Somers, and "Bobo's is at the center of it all." 

Where can I find Bobo's?

To see what Bobo's is all about, head on over to their original Somers location around lunchtime and order something off the sandwich board. A second location, and perhaps a slightly different concept, is poised to open in 2019 and I cannot wait to see how Bobo's evolves into an oasis outside of New York City as time goes on.