Katarina Davoultzis’ husband is on the chubby side. What you would refer to a “bouli” in Greek a “rolly polly.” The reason behind his “well-roundedness” he admits is loukoumades. Ever since a kid he has been obsessed. The thing about loukoumades is they can be eaten around the clock. They are not relegated to an after dinner desert. Boulis would eat them for breakfast, after lunch, as a snack along with Greek coffee in the late afternoon and then again for dinner. And his obsession did not stop there. For years he kept his mother’s secret recipe in the tissues of his body. The calories added up but his craving for the traditional loukoumades never diminished. His trella for loukoumades translated into Cafe Boulis, a small storefront tucked around the corner from 31st street on 31st Avenue (the elevated tracks of the N/Q train are on Broadway) totally dedicated to making loukoumdes the Greek traditional way. “My friends told me, eise trellos, (you are crazy), “he admits when he embarked on the idea to open a loukoumadiko in the heart of Astoria. “I did it out of pizma,” he admitted.
Boulis in the construction trade for many years gets a lot of help from his wife Katarina. But there is method in his madness for the loukoumades as he has taken it to another level. He custom imported the equipment to make a fresh batch of the sweet dough concoctions from Athens. His is the one store where you can go in and order fresh on the spot loukoumades to your taste. In the basement he has two bakers working round the clock making other assorted Greek sweets (anything that ends in a–tsourekia, melomacarona, koulourakia.) But it is the loukoumades that have garnered a following surprisingly more with the xeni than the Greeks. Eponymously baptized “gronuts” (Greek and donut) to help make the connection for non Greek audiences, Cafe Boulis loukoumades are crunchy on the outside yet soft and chewy on the inside. They have a secret combo of cinnamon and orange blossom flavor that traces back to giagia, a recipe from Zakinthos. Loukoumades are quite diverse and depending on the geographic area of Ellas have been made with powdered sugar with holes in the middle or in whole balls. Some decadent varieties have been even filled with chocolate or even luscious Nutella which are syringed into their center. Aside from powdered sugar and honey, other toppings include cinnamon, chocolate syrup, sour cherry syrup, sour cherries, chopped walnuts, sesame, and agave nectar.
The shop breathes of an old fashioned zacharoplasteio the kind you could find in the old quarter of Athens. Old black and white photos bring to mind Athenian coffee culture replete with shiny copper briki on those copper hanging trays that coffee delivery boys used to bring each cup individually made to the specifics of a customer’s order. In fact I ferreted out Cafe Boulis on the order of my aging mother who during the sarakosti had a craving for her childhood sugar pick me up. Loukoumades we should mention are nistisima deserts as well as kosher and vegan. She remembers meeting her father after work in Thisseio and sneaking a snack of the syrupy mouthful delightfuls away from the prying eyes of her mother at the famous cafe Krinos, an Athenian landmark to this day famous for serving on the spot loukoumades. My mom remembers cutting the loukoumades into teeny tiny pieces so they would never end and she’d have more morsels to enjoy. Loukoumades are the Greek equivalent of PBnJ or Oreos. The nostalgic sweet that conjures up the sweetness of childhood for those like Bouli and his wife Katerina.
Here, you can get them in small (5 pieces for $4) or large (12 pieces for $8) servings, or by the tray (small for 10-12 people at $15 and large for 20-24 people at $30).
The coffee is also good, and is an excellent pairing with its slight, delightful bitterness to go accompany the sweet loukoumades.