A contender for the title of most popular Italian bakery in Bensonhurst, Villabate Alba is a neighborhood institution opened in 1978 and known for supplying cannoli at Brooklyn’s first cannoli eating contest, giving out free cannoli after the 18th Avenue festival, and of course their distinctive, if not iconic, strawberry shortcake “burger”.
Because you can never have enough Sicilian pastries and we’ve never formally featured Villabate on the Bean, we stopped by yesterday to grab a bite to eat.
The old school atmosphere of the shop is tangible even before entering, from the script on its overhang and the plaster ice cream cone to the Italian flag logo bearing its title on the building’s side — and of course all the locals enjoying treats outside and chatting in Italian.
Inside, the staff is friendly and helpful, knowledgable about the shop’s selection and all seeming to be genuinely enjoying their time behind the counter. Most of the items bear no price tag, but the employees all knew the costs off the top of their head.
For just $10, we bought ourselves a gorgeous, iced mini-cake, a cannoli, two smaller cookies and a sample of their marzipan.
This was no easy decision, as the shop is lined with pastries pretty enough to be ornaments and ranging from spumoni ice-cream cakes to ricotta cheesecake.
The ceiling is painted in a heavenly fresco, and the store’s popularity is further exemplified by the formal ropes set up to denote where lines should start on busy days.
The marzipan was stunning to the point of being realistically what it was not — in this case, that being a miniature corn-on-the-cob. (Villabate Alba are professional pastry disguisers, further exampled by this cake that is pretending to be a turkey.) Gorgeously painted, the little treat was truly a work of art.
The cannoli had a very distinctive design, with far more filling than bread and an orange and cherry garnish. Reliably sweet and creamy, the garnish also leant the Brooklyn-classic a citrusy understate.
Unfortunately, despite being lovingly placed in Villabate’s custom pastry box, the cannoli and the cake were slightly damaged in our commute home. Fortunately, that didn’t make them any less delicious.
Where: 7001 18th Ave
Hours: Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
Phone: (718) 331-8430
Kid Friendly: Yes
Photos by author