Each week, First We Feast photographer Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay) grabs her camera and hits the streets to explore a different aspect of the food world. Here, she shares her photos and stories.
My quest this week was to capture the colorful display cases and old-school feel of some of NYC’s iconic pasticcerie—Italian-American bakeries known for traditional treats like pignoli, tiramisu, and gelato.
I started my tour at Rocco’s on Bleeker Street, where an older gentleman greeted me with an enthusiastic “Ciao Bella!” and showed me the cannoli-making process—he started by piping sweet ricotta filling into fresh baked shells, then coated them generously with pistachios or chocolate chips. The entire place was bustling with families, neighborhood folks, and children all ending their day with a sweet escape.
My next stop, near Houston Street, was Bruno’s. A little quieter and tucked away, this pasticceria was darkly lit with bright cases of macaroons, fresh gelato, and even a gluten-free section (I guess everywhere has to change with the times). While it lacked the warm neighborhood feel of Rocco’s, there were several NYU professors enjoying the summer weather while sipping cappuccinos and chatting amongst themselves until dusk.
Finally, I made my way to the famous Veniero’s Pastry Shop in the East Village, one of the oldest pasticcerie in the city (it first opened its doors back in 1894). It’s by far the largest of the three, with a main room full of the bright display cases, plus a coffee bar for cake and gelato, and a full-service dining room. In addition to cannoli, rainbow cookies, and other classic Italian pastries, Vaneiro’s is widely known for its cheesecake—an entire fridge is devoted solely to different variations on the theme, and it seemed to be a popular item among patrons.
As my photographic journey came to a close for the evening, I grabbed a small tiramisu for the road and headed home, with Veniero’s neon-lit sign casting a slight pink glow onto the road ahead of me.