The last and final installment of Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before film trilogy was released on Friday, February 12. For those unacquainted, it is a film series based on the books of the same title by Jenny Han. The story centers on wallflower high schooler Lara Jean Covey as she navigates coming-of-age after her secret love letters to 5 boys she has crushed on throughout her life are sent to and received by each respective boy without her knowledge.
Ultimately she falls in love and into a relationship with Peter Kavinsky, one of the letter recipients. The final film, To All The Boys: Always and Forever, explores Lara Jean’s senior year as she navigates college decisions, her future with Peter, and the inevitable life changes that come with growing up. It is truly a love letter to young love, family, New York, and the “world’s best cookies.” You guessed it: Lara Jean falls in love with Levain Bakery.
Without spoiling too much, Lara Jean takes a trip to New York City and ends up – like many pre-pandemic tourists – at the original Levain Bakery location on 74th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. The film captures the Levain moment in perfect warmth and fuzziness:
As a 4+ year New Yorker and relatively new Upper West Sider, this scene carried extreme, unpredicted sentimentality. Living in the city, especially throughout the entirety of the pandemic, has tarnished the optimistic outlook I once had about it. I definitely fell in love with the city and decided it was the place for me, but this frame of mind hasn’t made living here any more picture-perfect as it conventionally is on screen. But to see a trip to Levain Bakery, a classic New York pastime, through Lara Jean’s fresh, unjaded perspective, reminded me of my first time visiting the institution tucked within West 74th Street.
Due to COVID-19, Levain on 74th has been closed for going on a year. I miss it so; I think many of us do. And in true To All the Boys fashion, I decided to write a love letter.
Dear Levain on 74th,
Do you remember the first time we met? I do. My memory of the first time I met you, or our meet-cute, is ingrained in my memory as if it was yesterday. It was December of 2016, my sophomore year of college.. My friend Grace told me that you were THE bakery to go to for the most delicious chocolate chip cookie in the city. So on the first day of winter break, I hopped on the 1 train with my mom and headed uptown to find you. It was strange. My whole life I had seen the Upper West Side as a magical world that only existed in my favorite movies. When Harry Met Sally. You’ve Got Mail. Definitely, Maybe. But when I got off the train, that was exactly what I found in front of me. Even the journey towards you made me better. When I finally got to you, after nearly passing by because of your petite stature, I instantly got filled with nerves. I wanted to make the right impression by knowing exactly what to say, knowing exactly what to order. Lucky for me, I was stuck in a 30 minute line to practice. As it turns out, many people love you.
I finally entered your doors and it was an encounter like no other. Your warmth, the smell of your buttery, sugar laden perfume, your charming presence captivated me. I made my move and ordered a four box of 2 chocolate chip walnut, one oatmeal raisin, and one chocolate peanut butter. I bid you a shy farewell to head back outside. My mom and I found a bench right by the Museum of Natural History, where we opened the warm, hefty box we got from you and I released one of the chocolate chip cookies perfectly in half to expose the gooey molten interior. I obviously took a picture. Then finally, I dug in. Levain on 74th, if it wasn’t evidently love at first sight, it was definitely love at first bite.
I would come back to you during the golden moments of my New York life. When I finally moved uptown, I realized my love for you is one to be shared. With this community. With everyone who calls the Upper West Side their home and everyone who visits with a longing to call it home. I’ve been both and you’ve been there for me through and through.
It’s been about a year since we all last visited you. The pandemic has shifted this neighborhood in so many ways; the closure of you, Levain on 74th Street, being one of the hard hitting among them. I know you’ve set your boundaries with the interest of everyone’s safety in mind, but unlike a glass of cold milk, that doesn’t wash away the pain of this temporary goodbye. I miss you. We all miss you. I long for the day we can meet again, when I can sit on your bench sugar comatosed after eating a cookie or four.
I will love you Levain on 74th.
Always and forever,
[ Levain Bakery’s location at 351 Amsterdam Avenue, between 76th and 77th Streets, is open ]