A secret and sweet escape

We all have our secrets.

I’m typically good at keeping them: there’s no need to share any strange behaviors or superstitions I may or may not have, or ridiculously embarrassing stories about things I may or may not have done, and so on.

But (forgive me for any righteousness) I am not good at keeping on the down-low great and frugal finds. As much as my id would like to claim certain culinary spots as mine and only mine to partake in, it’s just not that enjoyable to frequent eateries alone, nor is it realistic to believe it is all about me (up for debate).

I hate to subscribe to the cliché of this particular find being “one of the city’s best kept secrets.” In fact, Veniero’s Pasticceria & Caffe could not possibly have remained a secret – it’s been around since 1894, recently passing its 110th anniversary, and it is a full house every time I’ve visited. The quintessential local favorite, it exudes an old-world charm complete with the most extensive dessert and pastry menu you have ever seen.

Forget Little Italy, though it may still have a few notable storefronts from its golden days. For a taste of authentic sweets and coffees, head to Venierro’s (on 11th and 1st Ave in the East Village).

As you enter, you will undeniably be drawn to the 40 foot-long (read: euphoric) display of traditional pastries: pastracroce, cream puffs, napoleans, sfogliatella, and of course, cannolis upon cannolis. Yes, it is beautiful, but farther in, past the portrait of Frank Sinatra and his slice of Veniero-heaven, is perhaps the most stunning dining room you could find at a pastry shop. Marble floors, polished wood mirrors, and luxurious stamped metal ceilings surround you – all original details. Granted, it’s usually very noisy and crowded, but the aforementioned particulars make up for its clamorous atmosphere.

The food more than makes up for it as well. The pastries and cakes won founder Antonio Veniero awards in Bolognia, Rome, and the New York World’s Fair, and I think it’s safe to say that not only has the décor remained the same, but over a century later, the products are still in demand. The classic mini-cheesecake with fresh fruit topping ($3.10) has a lemon zing to it, with an unexpectedly not-too-rich flavor and weightless texture. The strawberry millefoglie ($3.10) is also quite delicate: a light pastry filled with Bavarian-strawberry cream and topped with powdered sugar. Try one of the cannolis ($1.90) you spied on your way in, they’re just as good as they look. For truly rich, heavy, choco-holic decadence, order a slice of the chocolate truffle cake ($3.50): spongecake, filled with chocolate and raspberry preserves with a hint of rum. To stave off the food-induced coma, try any one of their specialty espressos or coffees.

Granted, the place has its drawbacks. The service can be luke-warm at most, as your server will be running back and forth with a harried look upon their face. And you’ll have to wave them down for additional orders or a check. Expect this, and you won’t be disappointed.

While the nights are still warm, try to snag one of the tables outside. The shop is open from 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and on Fridays and Saturdays it remains open until 1 a.m., making it the perfect stop for a late-night craving or a sweet end to a night out.

Sometimes it’s good to share secrets.

Veniero’s Pastcceria & Caffe
3432 East 11th Street
L to 1st Ave-14th St.