On weekends, Camari Mick stands behind the marble bar at Raf’s, taking orders and serving pastries. The all-day café, which opened this spring on Manhattan’s Elizabeth Street, feels like a hybrid of a Sicilian coffee bar and a Parisian boulangerie. It’s the kind of place where there’s always someone reading a newspaper, and no one would dare open up a laptop. One morning, a guest asked Mick if the pastry chef was Italian or French. She responded, “No, I’m Jamaican.”

Mick, 29, co-owns Raf’s with executive chef Mary Attea and restaurateurs Jennifer and Nicole Vitagliano, the same team that runs the Musket Room restaurant just down the street. Mick joined the Musket Room in 2020, after years working as a pastry chef at top New York restaurants Le Bernardin and Eleven Madison Park.

Camari Mick and her business partner Mary Attea at New York’s Musket Room restaurant, where they first worked together.

In a moment when the city is bursting with dessert innovations such as croissant cereal and laminated baguettes, Mick has taken the opposite approach. “We’re doing simple recipes that show skill,” she says—while also adding personal touches.

Take her version of the canelé, a two-bite cake from Bordeaux with a custardy inside and caramelized outside. Canelés are traditionally made with rum; Mick nods to her heritage by using Jamaican rum, but she also honors the Vitagliano sisters’ Italian background by adding in their family’s anisette, a liquor they make themselves. Mick bakes the canelés in copper molds that Attea brought back from Paris, so all four of Raf’s women are part of this pastry’s story. “It’s our little love child,” Mick says.

The cast-iron sfincione, a Sicilian-style pizza coated with crisp bread crumbs, at Raf’s.

While the pastries are paramount, Mick sees her leadership role as an opportunity to create a safe, empowering environment for her team. She holds town halls where cooks can share ideas and air grievances, something she herself learned from Attea. “I just want to make sure everybody feels like they’re being heard,” Mick says.

One morning, a guest asked if the pastry chef was Italian or French. Camari Mick responded, “No, I’m Jamaican.”

The bakery at Raf’s is open on weekends from nine A.M. to two P.M., with plans to expand to six days a week. In the pastry case, an opera cake with whipped caramel ganache sits alongside a cube-shaped “Hazelnut Piazza” that’s like a cross between tiramisu and Ferrero Rocher. There are plain croissants made with sequoia flour and mushroom danishes with ramps and Gruyère. Candied-orange-almond croissants get a brush of saline simple syrup; pains au chocolat are made with Italian chocolate.

“It’s a bakery; it’s a restaurant; it’s a café; it’s a bar.”

Italy’s influence can also be seen in the focaccia, amaretti, and half-dollar-size sandwich cookies called baci di dama, or lady’s kisses, made with hazelnut shortbread and chocolate ganache. Mick makes only 20 of these a day, and they sell out quickly.

By 11 A.M., the pastries are mostly gone, and the first round of jambon-beurre makes its entrance: warm baguettes slathered with butter, freshly cut ham, and gherkin pickles. Those, too, are snatched up in minutes, but you can always buy a pain au lait to go, or come back later for dinner. Because, at Raf’s, early mornings flow easily into late nights. “It’s a bakery; it’s a restaurant; it’s a café; it’s a bar,” Jennifer Vitagliano says.

Mick’s pain au lait rolls.

At dinnertime, the dessert menu leans Italian. “Aesthetically and texturally, everything needs to be perfect,” Mick says. The chocolate torte looks like it’s been cut with a laser. The salted whipped cream on the caramelized-white-chocolate budino has just the right amount of aeration. The stracciatella cheesecake, served with strawberry jam, eats like the silkiest mousse. These desserts, along with the viennoiseries that come earlier in the day, don’t only showcase Mick’s talent and skill; they’re a reminder that the classics are classic for a reason, and that, sometimes, less really is more.

Nina Friend is a New York–based writer and editor who covers food, drink, and lifestyle