Veniero’s Pasticceria and Caffé is a bakery’s bakery. I’m talking about the family owned kind that doesn’t bow to trends, knows its customers and sticks to traditional desserts. You won’t find any fancy chocolates with abstract designs here, but you will find an enormous selection of Italian pastries and over 40 different kinds of coffee. Established in 1894, this famous landmark is open seven days a week, from 8:00am – Midnight (1:00am on Friday and Saturday) and continues to be popular with everyone from Italian immigrants to Williamsburg hipsters.
The bakery counter runs 40 feet in length, and stocks a variety of large and small pastries, cookies and cakes. The selection is everything a true Italian dreams of: traditional Cannoli, Tiramisu and Napolean familiar to most Americans, along with more rare finds like Sfogliatella (sweet ricotta cheese filled with chopped citron in a flaky shell) and Strawberry Millefoglie (delicate layers of flaky pastry and Bavarian cream topped with a fresh strawberry). Just past the display case is the entrance to the cafe, where table service is offered and you can order from a full menu of desserts, coffee, wine, liquors and beer (customers are not allowed to eat purchases from the bakery in the cafe.) The waiters are quick to take your order and, in true Italian style, slow to bring the check. Andrew ordered the Baba Rum Custard and I ordered the Tiramisu and we both stuck with the regular house blend coffee. In the end, the desserts we selected were not a good match for either of our tastes. You could pour out the excess rum from the Baba Rum Custard and the Tiramisu was not particularly notable. The couple at the table next to ours was enjoying a Cannoli which looked delicious and may be worth coming back for.
What we bought: Baba Rum Custard ($1.95) and Tiramisu ($3.25). The sponge cake in the Baba Rum Custard was oversaturated with rum, and the Tiramisu was unremarkable. Next time I would try the Cannoli.
Cost: Veniero’s pastries are very reasonably priced, proving to be a nice relief from the high cost of most Manhattan bakeries.
Wait: Andrew and I went to Veniero’s at 8:30pm on a weekday, and there was no wait at the front counter or to sit in the cafe. On weekends and holidays this is not the case, and customers usually wait in long lines for both.
Atmosphere: Original hand stamped metal ceilings, etched glass doors and newly restored marble floors make customers feel as if they have stepped back in time. “The Carpenters” and other 1980s soft rock classics were playing in the background, but young customers and lively conversation help to bring the energy level up.
Uniqueness: One of the oldest bakeries in New York, the historic setting is more relaxing than most. And in case you want to stay connected as you relax, the cafe has free internet access.
Clientele: Families, tourists, hipsters and just about anyone who passes through the east village.
Location: Located in the east village on the corner of 11th street and 1st avenue, this part of town is like a second Little Italy. There are several other Italian restaurants and bakeries in the area and it’s easy to get to off the 1st Avenue L subway stop.
Staff: Friendly, quiet staff that leaves you in peace to enjoy your pastries.
Final Verdict: A unique, historical setting worth going to if in the neighborhood.
Veniero’s Pasticceria & Caffé
342 E. 11th Street (Between 1st and 2nd Avenues)