[𝙻𝚒𝚋é𝚕𝚞𝚕𝚊] – the Spanish word for dragonfly.
According to Latin tradition, seeing a dragonfly is a sign of good news to come. After eating at Libélula Bakery + Kitchen, Montclair’s newest bakery and restaurant, I have no doubt that owners and chefs Veruska Samanez and Brian Martinez will have great success.
After graduating from The Culinary Institute (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, Veruska and Brian pursued their culinary careers. Martinez worked in several well-known restaurants across New York City and New Jersey, including Fleming’s in Edgewater and Harvest Restaurant Group. Samanez used her talent as a pastry chef in the kitchens of 5-star hotels in NYC, and she also runs Cake + Flourish, an online shop where she sells her custom cakes and desserts. Her talent earned her a semi-finalist spot in the 2021 Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship.
Now, five years into their marriage and with a four-month-old son, they have proudly opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Libélula Bakery + Kitchen.
Libélula is a bright, spacious and cozy place that is very inviting. The chefs, also warm and inviting, have combined their Peruvian, Dominican and Latino cultures with their formal French training to create a delicious fusion menu. Currently, Libélula is open for breakfast and lunch but plans to offer dinner service in 2024. However, they will accommodate private dinner parties.
You can enjoy breakfast offerings, such as Mangu Tres Golpes ($16: Mashed plantain, egg, sausage, fired cheese and mojo onions) and Eggs Benedict ($16: Classic poached eggs with a Latin twist of huancaina, sausage and salsa criolla). For lunch, they offer dishes such as Chimichurri Burger ($16), Lomo Saltada ($22: Tender beef stir fry with creamy basil noodles) and Ceviche ($18: White market fish, leche de tigre and tostones).
I’ve been to Libélula twice so far, and I must say, I’m a huge fan. The food is very fresh and beautifully plated, and everything is cooked to perfection, perfectly seasoned, and so flavorful. Chef Martinez is—apologies for quoting Guy Fieri—the Mayor of Flavortown.
Then there is the bakery. Chef Samanez fills the display case with a delicious mix of classic French pastries with traditional Latin sweets. Treats such as flaky croissants and Pan de Chocolate and Pan Dulce and Alfajores, which are Peruvian shortbread sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche. If you try nothing else, go for the alfajores. Trust me. You’re welcome.
Libélula Bakery + Kitchen is a standout addition to Montclair’s dining scene. The family business serves up really good food in a welcoming environment. With its plans to expand their services to dinner, I think Libélula has a promising future.