324 East 11th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 674-7070
Publish Post

I grew up with Veniero's. By the time I knew about the smooth death-by-creaminess that is a Junior's cheesecake, I'd already had the bar set unfairly high with the Veniero's version. By the time Cafe Lalo got irritatingly famous and impossible to get into thanks to long lines populated almost exclusively by tweens and tourists, I'd already been standing on 45 minute long lines to get desserts at Veniero's.

Veniero's is the polar opposite of trendy. While the new pastry places lean heavily towards clean lines and bright colors, Veniero's is virtually the same now as it was eons ago. Dark woods, polished brass, stained glass lamps, waiters in bow ties. But don't let it's turn-of-the-century vibe fool you. Veniero's has a dining section in the rear where you and friend can suck down confections and cappuccinos and it can fill up just as much as the trendy places can.

In fact, the lines at Veniero's can grow to laughably long proportions. I've waited close to an hour on at least one occasion and I've seen them stretch out the door, onto the street, and down to the corner of First Avenue. Are they really that good? Yep. If you happen to be a fan of Italian pastries, you simply cannot go wrong here. If, however, you aren't a fan of lines reminiscent of a trip to Six Flags, then there are other Italian pastry stores right on the same block and, I can attest to the fact that they're very, very good as well.

Okay, I admit it. I went someone insane. My parents were making dinner and, dutiful son that I am, decided to bring the dessert. Next thing I know, I wake up in Veniero's. I hadn't eaten that day and everything started looking good. I couldn't just get one thing, I had to get everything. Or practically close to it. By the time I walked out, I had spent way more on sugar than I could have remotely planned on.

Primarily, I was there for a cake. But having had cheesecake from Veniero's a thousand times, I opted instead for their Windmill Cake. Not a slice. The whole thing. Looking at the photo now, I just want to dive in and sleep on it like a pillow. The windmill cake is basically layer upon layer of chocolate sponge cake and chocolate whipped cream. It's so light that it goes beyond melting in your mouth. It evaporates. It's like eating a chocolate cloud.

I can say similar things about Veniero's idea of what Tiramisu is. Most tiramisus are spongy and somewhat damp cubes of cake and cream and cinnamon-chocolate dust. Everyone has this memory of the perfect tiramisu but no one's ever been able to find it again. Veniero's decided to skip the typical crap meathod and instead go the cake route. It tastes like what it's supposed to without looking like it fell on the floor first. The tiramisu was heavier than the windmill, but so smooth that you almost imagine eating it through a straw.

Backing up these two came a half pound of Rainbow "Cookies", those little cakes that look like chocolate-dipped pride flags. I love these like you wouldn't believe. Give me a cup of tea and I could eat these for hours. On bad days, I actually might have eaten these for hours. Sometimes, the cakes will have been made so long ago that they've started to go stale by the time they're bought, but Veniero's turnover is so high that they don't last long before another batch is brought out. I also grabbed a Cannoli. What more can I say except that if you love cannolis, you'll be in pig heaven. If you don't, they have plenty of other options. But... who doesn't like cannolis?

Such as their Personal Fruit Tarts. There are four varieties: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry. I bought one Blackberry and one Raspberry. Their fruit tarts are pretty much the standard by which I judge other pastry shops' fruit tarts. If the fruit is as fresh, the syrup as sweet without being too sticky, the crust as moist and the custard as smooth, it's a good tart. Otherwise, it's a wannabe. The tarts are amazing.

Finally, I also grabbed a slice of Napoleon Cake to try, a rummy sponge cake filled with layers of vanilla custard and covered with a layer of vanilla and chocolate frosting, which was very good, though not my favorite of all (merely a four star dessert). I got but a single bite before it was basically inhaled by other members of my family.

Veniero's isn't cheap, but it's not too bad. I can't remember all of the prices, but the rainbow cookies were $11 or $12 per pound and the windmill cake was somewhere around $26.

UPDATE 5/7/08:
GASP!!! So according to Eater, Veniero's just got temporarily closed for health violations. That sucks. Part of me feels dumb for having hyped them so much. But I can't. They really are THAT good.

UPDATE 5/13/08:
Well, they're back open folks.

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