Sweets You Can't Refuse

Natasha Lardera (December 17, 2014)
Below you’ll find our fourteen city’s titans of sweetness, dishing out desserts we can’t say no to. From tiramisu to rum baba to millefoglie, each dessert has a hidden link to the regions of Italy, where every family covets its own recipe. Pastry chefs the world over have brought their own twists on old standards to the best restaurants with creativity and passion. Who can refuse a little sweet during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday? Below are our recommendations. If you have a recommendation of your own, send us an email or visit our Facebook page and we’ll publish it online.

 Per Lei
1347 2nd Avenue
(212) 439-9200

In Italian, panna cotta literally means “cooked cream”, and it is simply the perfect dessert. The
dessert appears on restaurant menus much more fre­quently than it does on people’s din­ner tables, yet this dish is actually very easy to make. Blend thick cream, egg white and honey, then bake the mix in a bain-marie at a low temperature. It is generally believed to have origi­nated in Piedmont but is consumed throughout Italy, where it can be served with wild berries, chocolate, nuts and creams. Per Lei’s to-die-for panna cotta is prepared the traditional way (it really does feel and taste like cooked cream) and served with pista­chios. It alone is reason to make the trip uptown!

321 W 46th Street
(212) 246-9171

● Founded in 1906 by Sebastiano Maioglio, Barbetta is the oldest Ital­ian restaurant in New York and, on top of that, it is still owned by the same family. Barbetta has been serv­ing Piedmont cuisine since its incep­tion and the regional influence can be glimpsed in their dessert menu. Among its beloved classics is Monte Bianco, a staple at the restaurant since 1962. Monte Bianco is a deca­dent dessert of puréed, sweetened chestnuts topped with whipped cream. The name comes from the mountain Mont Blanc, given the peak of delicious chestnuts’ resemblance to the snow-capped mountain. While its roots lie in the region of Piedmont, the dessert has now spread through­out Northern Italy.

Del Posto
85 10th Avenue
(212) 497-8090

Four-star cuisine calls for four-star desserts, and that’s just what you get at Del Posto, the most elegant cre­ation of Mario Batali, Joe and Lidia Bastianich and partner/Executive Chef Mark Ladner. Chocolate lovers will swoon over cioccolato, a selection of four chocolates and four rums (Amadei Cioccolato al Latte 32% To­scana, La Molina “con Mandorle di Avola” 60% Toscana, Domori Cacao Sambirano 70% Piemonte, and Dol­ceria Bonajuto “Modica” 90% Sicilia). Modica chocolate, for example, is a specialty chocolate made only in the Sicilian city of the same name follow­ing an ancient recipe that gives the chocolate a peculiar grainy texture and aromatic flavor. Those feeling more adventurous should try Pecori­no Romano cake served with honey gelato and roasted pears.

19 E 26th Street
(212) 265-5959

How does babà au rhum with whipped cream & orange sauce and limoncello granita sound? More to the point, how does it taste? The only way to find out is to head to Tony and Marisa May’s SD26. Babà au rhum is a small yeast cake similar to brioche, soaked in a rum-and-sugar syrup. Sometimes it is filled with whipped cream or pastry cream. Baba au rhum is a dessert commonly found in Italy, particularly Naples and the South. And what’s more Neapolitan than limoncello? At SD26 they serve limoncello granita, Italian ice made with water and syrup.

48 E 12th Street
(212) 777-7781

Who hasn’t heard of tiramisu? Italy’s most famous coffee-flavored dessert is made with savoiardi (la­dyfingers) dipped in coffee, covered with whipped eggs, sugar and mas­carpone cheese, and sprinkled with cocoa. The original recipe does not call for liquor, but one of the most common twists is the addition of Marsala. At Ribalta they substitute Marsala with rum. Tiramisu is not the only delicious dessert you can taste in this popular pizzeria. Mas­carpone and strawberries come with flaky homemade biscuits and fresh berries are served with vanilla gelato in a baked biscuit shell. (And don’t forget the big screen where in special occasions you can watch Italian soccer!)

334 Bowery
(212) 466-3300

Forcella is located in one of NYC’s most lively neighborhoods, in close proximity to NYU and Washington Square Park, so it’s always bus­tling with young fun people. Fans of Nutella (the famous hazelnut chocolate spread by Ferrero) have two delicious Nutella-based des­serts to feast on at this favorite lower Manhattan spot: Pizza alla Nutella (pizza dough stuffed with the sultry spread and almonds) and Angioletti, or little angels, alla Nutella (fried pizza dough strips with Nutella and powdered sugar). Those who want to try something different should dive into the mille­foglie. But forget about asking the chef for the recipe…it’s his secret.

Bar Eolo
190 7th Avenue
(646) 225-6606
 Bar Eolo serves Sicilian-inspired contemporary fare and offers an award-winning selection of Sicil­ian wines. Over the course of his­tory, the island of Sicily has been a cultural crossroads traversed by the Greeks, Arabs, Romans, Jews and Normans, just to name a few. This cultural amalgam is especially evi­dent in Sicilian cuisine. The dessert list features traditional sfinci, ricotta doughnuts filled with a vanilla-or­ange pastry cream and served with a dark chocolate dipping sauce, and cannoli “millefoglie,” crispy layers of cannoli shell topped with chocolate-laced ricotta, with pistachio flour and a candied orange puree.

Da Silvano
260 Avenue of the Americas
(212) 982-2343

Silvano Marchetto is credited with introducing New Yorkers to Tuscan cuisine back in the mid 1970s. Since then, the amazing food, the fash­ionable and famous customers, and the entertaining environment make Da Silvano a favorite in the city that never sleeps. The classic dessert menu features simple yet scrumptious sweets. One Tuscan classic that can’t be passed up is Cantucci con Vin Santo. Cantucci are small, crunchy biscotti made with almonds. Today you can find them in all kinds of flavors, in­cluding chocolate, pistachio and raisin. When preparing cantucci, the dough is baked twice, which explains why the deliciously sweet has such a hard texture. Most peo­ple find it too hard, which is why they dip cantucci into a small glass of Vin Santo.

Sant Ambroeus
259 W 4th Street
(212) 604-9254

Among other specialties, Sant Am­broeus’s guests can enjoy the kind of exceptional desserts this refined res­taurants is known for. From the classic profiterole, chocolate bignè of espres­so-soaked vanilla sponge cake filled with chantilly cream and pistachios, to the traditional millefoglie, a layered puff pastry with vanilla bean cream, to the signature Sant Ambroeus, a choco­late mousse cake with a chocolate cus­tard center. The cafe also offers a wide range of ice creams, like coppa paciugo, pear sorbet with ..paciugo, pear sorbet with a pear eau-de-vie, and coppa colibri, fresh fruit salad with fruit sorbet.

337 E 10th Street
(212) 677-1913

 If you can’t decide which dessert to pick, don’t panic. At Gnocco you can find a dessert tasting plate fea­turing cantucci di Prato (homemade almond cookies), torta di ricotta (Ital­ian cheese cake served with whipped cream, wild berries) and torta al ciocco­lato e caffè (chocolate mousse topped with a coffee biscuit and served with almonds and Bavarian coffee). The dish should satisfy 3-4 sweet tooths. For something a little lighter and bet­ter for digestion, try the semifreddo al limone e menta, lemon and mint par­fait with peach.

La Giara
501 3rd Avenue
(212) 726-9855

Named after Luigi Pirandello’s short story La Giara (The Oil Jar), the restau­rant has been a fixture in Murray Hill since 1997. La Giara is a cylindrical earthenware container and alludes to the rustic fare that the restaurant serves...with a twist. The menu list sports something for everybody. Tra­ditionally eaten on St. Joseph’s Day, zeppole are a favorite of many and here you can find them year round. Zeppole are deep fried balls of dough topped with powdered sugar and filled with custard, jelly, pastry creams or honey.

Marco Polo
345 Court Street, Brooklyn
(718) 852-5015

Famous for its mix of northern and southern Italian cuisine, Marco Polo Ristorante is one of the most celebrat­ed Italian eateries in all of Brooklyn. The dessert menu features quite a few custards, including zabaione freddo, a common Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine (usually Marsala). The light custard is whipped to incorporate a large amount of air. Generally it can be enjoyed hot or cold and served with strawberries, blueberries, peaches, other fruit or light cookies. Another classic custard on the menu is crème brûlée, also known as “burnt cream,” a dessert consisting of a rich custard base with a hard caramel glaze.

40 N 6th Street, Brooklyn
(718) 218-7045

Fabbrica, Italian for factory, has become a favored destination for those seeking contemporary Ital­ian cuisine and extraordinary bou­tique wines. The sweet ending to a perfect meal is affogato, vanilla gelato served with a double shot of espresso and cacao crumble. Af­fogato, meaning “drowned,” refers to the gelato’s being drenched with a shot of hot coffee. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, try the Fabbri­ca Sundae, an Italian-style sundae made with ricotta and hazelnut ge­lato and topped with amarena cher­ries, cannoli crumble and chocolate syrup. Now that’s a dessert nobody can resist.

Pasticceria Bruno
1650 Hylan Blvd
(718) 987-5859

In 2008 Chef Biagio, his son Chef Salvatore and Chef Gianfranco Fran­zese opened a new location in Staten Island. Pasticceria Bruno has become very popular thanks to the large se­lection of goodies on their breakfast, lunch and dinner menu created by our world-renowned chefs, and of course thanks to their delicious Ital­ian desserts, like cannoli, tiramisu and cassata. Around Christmas time, Chef Biagio makes his special panet­tone, a loaf of sweet bread with can­died fruit originally from Milan and usually enjoyed on Christmas and New Year’s in Italy. Kids and big kids alike go nuts for it during the holi­days.