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Veniero's is Pathetic/Shame on Another NYC Institution Gone the Way of the Tourist Trap

y
yussdov May 3, 2011 09:21 PM

after denying the writing on the wall for many years and struggling to relinquish my fond memories of snacking at veniero's in my youth, i've had to begrudgingly admit that this place is nothing more that a tourist rip off joint. there never seems to be anyone working on site who is genuinely concerned about the customer's experience and the food has gotten progessively worse with each passing year. last night i had the worst sicilian cheesecake made in perhaps the history of new york city. and, like too many places in manhattan nowadays, the owners don't care and don't have to care. they're making so much money off of tourists that they can serve dreck and get away with it. after taking a bite of the cheesecake and leaving the rest on the plate, no one asked if everything was okay or even took the time to notice that we were displeased with our food. they just don't care anymore, and it shows in the service, the attention to detail, the taste of the food.

after returning year after year despite the evidence of radical decline i must now woeful admit that the place is dead to me. RIP veniero's. you've betrayed the people who loved you and stood by you for years. shame on you.

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Veniero's
342 E 11th St, New York, NY 10003

  1. r
    RCC May 4, 2011 08:09 AM

    Agree 100% as per my experiences and observations over the last few times I've been in the last couple of years and have not sat at a table to eat there for a while now. Service there is pathetic and the cakes are just OK but not worth sitting down for.

    We still like the Ricotta cheesecake enough to bring to friends or serve at home with guests, and our MO is simply to take a number, order the full cake, pay up at the register and get the hell outta there.

    Btw, the pine nut/almond cookies are also good take-out and munch-on-the-walk-home items.

    1. j
      jester99 May 4, 2011 08:17 AM

      for italain like pastries and such in Manhattan, Roccos is still my go to place.

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      Rocco's Pastry Shop
      243 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

      3 Replies
      1. re: jester99
        JungMann May 4, 2011 08:50 AM

        I've always thought Rocco's was just as bad as Veniero's. My go to pasticceria is Bruno's.

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        Veniero's
        342 E 11th St, New York, NY 10003

        Bruno Bakery
        506 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

        1. re: JungMann
          a
          AubWah May 5, 2011 06:04 AM

          I've been to Rocco's and liked it. Wouldn't sit down at a place like this though

          1. re: AubWah
            r
            RCC May 6, 2011 02:23 PM

            I liked Rocco's cannoli ... not the best I've had, but will do if I'm craving and in the vicinity. I, too, would point, get cannoli, pay, get the hell outta there quickly and eat my cannoli on the streets.

      2. sing me a bar May 4, 2011 08:19 AM

        I only tried it once and felt the same way. A long line of tourists and the people at the counter and register just trying to take in the $$ as quickly as possible. The lady at the register was nice, though. I gave her a kind of understanding smile, since I'm a neighbor. Her smile seemed to be empathetic for my feeling as if the place no longer belonged to the neighborhood. Equally, I didn't really blame her for accommodating all the tourists throwing money at her. The cookies were certainly good, but maybe not worth what one pays, after they're weighed like gold!

        1. a
          aznsusan May 4, 2011 08:58 AM

          Too bad.. used to love this place. I'm visiting ny this weekend. Where can I go to get a good cheesecake instead?

          1 Reply
          1. re: aznsusan
            k
            kathryn May 4, 2011 10:06 PM

            This might help: http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2009/1...

          2. r
            racer x May 4, 2011 09:11 AM

            There's definitely been a serious decline in the past few years.
            Their pumpkin pies around Thanksgiving used to be incredible; lately, they are no better than what you'd get at the local supermarket (maybe not even that good). A lot of the Italian pastries also aren't worth the bother now.

            Some of their cakes used to still be good, like the fruit supreme and the strawberry shortcake, but in recent years even those have been hit or miss, more often miss.

            1. Jess321 May 4, 2011 07:46 PM

              Veniero's just plan sucks. I gave it two tries, once alone doing take out and once with a friend dining in. I'll post my review from a different website on here:

              2 strikes and you're out, Veniero's. No incentive to give them a third shot because I've tried five things on their menu at this point and nothing is even good enough to want to finish...and I have the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know!

              The first time I went, I ordered a slice of the famous ricotta cheesecake, hoping to be transported back to my favorite bakery in Roma where I would indulge in this treat weekly. At the very least, I expected a decent slice of cheesecake. Not even close...I ate maybe five bites and couldn't make myself eat more. Also, the night I ate this was the night Passover ended and I hadn't eaten bread or bread products in over a week-if cheesecake doesn't taste good then, then it's just bad.

              That first time I went, I got counter service which took for-everrrr...like they were purposely ignoring me for some reason. Last night I tried again, this time going with a friend and trying four more things on the menu, but this time I got sit down service. The service sucked just as badly, if not moreso, when dining in. The waters were never refilled, took forever to place our order, and took a while to receive it as well.

              Between the two of us we tried: the mini chocolate cream cannoli (not chocolate shelled, just chocolate inside), millefoglie (again, hoping for at least a decent replica of the ones from Italy), some fruit/whipped cream cake thing, and the chocolate mousse cheesecake (half chocolate, half cheesecake).

              The cannoli was bad, and it was probably the best thing out of the four. The millefoglie was pretty much all whipped cream (which I should point out is one of my favorite foods of all time! but they somehow screwed it up here by making it overly sweet) and not many layers of pastry. The fruit pie thing was the same, gross sponge cake and layers of whipped cream and fruit that they decided to ruin by dousing in some weird glaze.

              The chocolate mousse cheesecake really wasn't that at all. For something to be called "mousse", it should be light and airy...this was neither. it was like a brick of fudge, but not good fudge. The cheesecake wasn't good either, and I told my friend that even Cheesecake Factory (my mortal enemy) had better cheesecake.

              Seriously, I don't know what the hype is about...if you want a good Italian bakery in the city, walk a bit to the village to Bruno's or Rocco's, both of which are vastly superior to this place.

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              Veniero's
              342 E 11th St, New York, NY 10003

              1. E Eto May 4, 2011 09:38 PM

                I felt that way about Viniero's 16 years ago. If it's gotten worse, that's too bad. However, the only thing that I've found good is the torta di mandorle, maybe because I've never found one anywhere else.

                1 Reply
                1. re: E Eto
                  n
                  Nancy S. May 7, 2011 06:00 AM

                  I felt that way 24 years ago!

                2. c
                  comiendosiempre May 5, 2011 05:39 AM

                  A dissenting voice: we never sit down for pastries, too crowded and why bother. But, many of their baked goods are still excellent, find us better similar items in NYC. The cheese cake still rocks and we've seen little change over many years. Their cakes are still good, a principal reason they sell so many of them to restaurants throughout NYC which then resell them by the slice and call them "home made." It is also why their custom cakes sell like hot cakes and orders must be placed days in advance. Those orders come from locals, not tourists. Their strawberry shortcake, including the single serving ones in the front refrigerated section, are excellent as is their mille fieulle (sp?) pastries, light as a feather. They float off the plate. Service behind the counter generally is good, particularly in view of how packed they often are. Who among us can wait on those crowds all day and smile at every person? No one has ever been dismissive or curt.

                  DiRoberti's across the street, on First, is another option, and we love the spot. Yet, for most items the pastries at Veneiro's are better, though we prefer the cookies at DiRoberti's and when available their ices are some of the best in the city.

                  PS
                  Yes, Veneirio's has many tourists, as do so many NY institutions, but its also packed with NYers who know good pastries. In regard to the decline in the taste of the cheesecake and the like, I'm not sure why that should be the case. They have been using the exact same recipes for many - many - decades. Perhaps tastes have changed, and not the recipes.

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                  De Robertis
                  176 1st Ave, New York, NY 10009

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: comiendosiempre
                    r
                    racer x May 6, 2011 08:00 PM

                    I can't comment on Veniero's cheesecakes since I never ordered them anyway. But something about their pumpkin pie recipes has definitely changed. Even if it was a change in the personnel preparing them or in the equipment used. They do NOT taste the same (at least they did not the last times I tried them).

                    Their menu has also evolved over time. While they still offer certain classics like cannoli and pignoli cookies, they've also added a number of small cakes in the past few years (starting around the time a few years back when they did renovation work and the health department shut them down temporarily) -- you'll find the newer cakes typically in the display cases closest to the register at the front door.

                    The counterstaff at the back counter, where you can order cake slices to go, have a tendency to grab the slices with their bare hands, which is a huge turnoff for me.

                    And the cake decoration of the regular (not custom-ordered) cakes is often rather sloppy. Much more often in recent years than say 10 or 15 years ago.

                    DeRobertis is worse still, and I have personally never been much of a fan of Rocco's.

                    1. re: racer x
                      janie May 6, 2011 08:06 PM

                      The baker at Lety's in Jackson Heights worked at Veneiro's for 2 decades, and opened his own bakery...his stuff is very good, and he can make any of the old favorites of Veneros..that's too bad there's been a decline, I haven't been there in so long, but I used to be a regular for many many years--and always loved many of their mini pastries, their very fresh strawberry shortcake, and their ricotta cheesecake.........

                  2. a
                    addictedtolunch May 7, 2011 07:04 AM

                    Agree, and Rocco's is no haven of old world flavor either. Amazing that there is no longer a "best of" commercially produced Italian Cheesecake, just "least worst of".

                    1. f
                      Fallon May 7, 2011 05:52 PM

                      Love DiRoberti's. My wife is a meringue freak whose parents are from France and she swears their meringues are the best she has ever had. We spent two weeks in France and sampled dozens of meringues but none met the gold standard. I love their pignoli cookies. Not a big Veniero's fan, haven't gone in awhile though.

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                      Veniero's
                      342 E 11th St, New York, NY 10003

                      1. a
                        alexinct May 7, 2011 07:40 PM

                        I find that for a city that covers Italian food pretty well, NYC severely lacks in the area of Italian pastries. These places are basically carbon copies of each other. Endless rows of overly sweet custard-filled cannoli, rainbow cookies and dried out sfogliatelle. Then again Italian pastries have never been very exciting to me.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: alexinct
                          r
                          racer x May 7, 2011 07:45 PM

                          Villabate -- Brooklyn.

                          1. re: alexinct
                            daveena May 8, 2011 08:32 AM

                            I've always loved the pastries at Tarallucci e Vino - they don't do the southern classics, but their espresso-friendly little cookies and tortas (not to mention their cornetas) have never disappointed me .

                            -----
                            Tarallucci e Vino
                            163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

                            1. re: daveena
                              a
                              alexinct May 8, 2011 01:36 PM

                              I've never had a good cornetto in the United States. I'll have to check it out...the day-old ones we've packed in our luggage coming home from Italy have been better than the ones I've had here, sadly.

                              1. re: alexinct
                                daveena May 8, 2011 02:59 PM

                                Their almond cornetto (thx for the correct spelling) was actually my #1 croissant (plain or filled) in NYC for years.

                            2. re: alexinct
                              k
                              kathryn May 8, 2011 09:18 AM

                              The Italian cookies that they serve at the end of dinner at Torrisi were great -- probably my favorite part of the meal. Rainbow cookie with real almond marzipan. Butter cookie with a dollop of high quality chocolate. Freshly made cannoli with candied orange zest using a waffle shell. Tiny ricotta tart with beets. Cream puff with bourbon cream. Delicious!

                              -----
                              Torrisi Italian Specialties
                              250 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012

                              1. re: kathryn
                                a
                                alexinct May 8, 2011 02:26 PM

                                Torrisi is great. If only other Italian-American inspired restaurants would take the same level of care in their ingredient sourcing.

                              2. re: alexinct
                                r
                                RCC May 8, 2011 02:46 PM

                                "Then again Italian pastries have never been very exciting to me."

                                Nor to me.

                              3. l
                                Lesliepbg May 8, 2011 07:22 PM

                                We've gone twice recently and honestly I thought it was OK. We got lobster tails and they were exactly the way I remembered them being as a kid. I'm not sure what everyone is expecting--it seemed like the old times to me.

                                1. n
                                  nooyawka May 9, 2011 01:02 PM

                                  20 years ago when friends were raving about it, I never understood the craze. Always struck me as one of those places, like Junior's, that people like to name-drop.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: nooyawka
                                    r
                                    RCC May 9, 2011 01:16 PM

                                    Things must be pretty bad when one start to name drop "Junior's"

                                    1. re: RCC
                                      n
                                      nooyawka May 9, 2011 01:27 PM

                                      lol

                                  2. EvilJ May 9, 2011 02:28 PM

                                    I agree and lived on 11th street for 10 years. I think so many "institutions" go this way.
                                    Katz's and Russ & daughters however, continue to deliver despite the tourist trends.

                                    1. thew May 9, 2011 03:12 PM

                                      veniero's hasn't gone that way - it was always that way

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