When Bardha Toska lived in Albania, she lacked the nutrition she needed as well as shoes. Her life changed, however, when she won the citizenship lottery and moved to the United States for a better life.
“This is the greatest country in the world,” said Toska, with a wide smile.
She moved to Arizona to join her brother, who owns two Hot Bagels and Deli stores in Glendale. Toska fell in love with the business and opened her own location in Anthem.
Everything at Hot Bagels and Deli is fresh. The staff—which includes her two children—makes bagels by hand, not by machine. The bagels are crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside—the way real bagels are meant to taste. They’re hand rolled, boiled and baked daily.
The flavors include super cinnamon, sesame (Toska’s favorite), chocolate chip and egg.
Breakfast and lunch yields 3,000 bagels every day. The shop also has a full deli, selling Boar’s Head meats, cheeses and homemade spreads—low fat, strawberry, blueberry, walnut raisin, chive, garlic, veggie, olive and pimento, jalapeno, sun-dried tomato and lox.
Breakfast burritos, some of which are filled with chorizo, are just as popular as bagels. Cold and hot sandwiches, and build-your-own wraps, are plentiful for lunch. Cookies, croissants, crumb cake, brownies, danishes and cinnamon rolls round out the offerings.
Cream cheese, Boar’s Head meat, cheese and salad are available by the pound.
During the pandemic, Hot Bagels and Deli switched to takeout. Toska admitted the restaurant has its challenges, but it’s well worth it.
“Everything has to be a certain way,” the Glendale resident said. “The bagels are hand rolled, made from scratch. The chicken salad is made from scratch the old-fashioned way. We boil the chicken breast and make the salad. We don’t use anything from cans. That’s why they’re so good.”
Opening a restaurant is a relatively new idea for Toska. She admitted it wasn’t on her wish list while she was under the grips of communism in Albania.
“You just want to wait for a better life,” she said. “You don’t make those kinds of plans. The hardest part was not having enough food on the table and not having shoes.
“I think people who come from Europe open restaurants or go into construction because you don’t really need any—how do you say—Ph.D.s and all that stuff. I wanted to be a nurse, but I had a kid to take care of.”