It's been a while since I've played tourist in New York, but last weekend my mother was in town to visit we decided to head to Little Italy's Feast of San Gennaro on Sunday. We arrived at 11am, right when the festival booths were opening. We walked around watching the first sausages of the day being placed onto hot grills, the first funnel cakes being poured into boiling oil, the untouched mountains of gelato being placed into freezers. Suddenly, we were quite hungry.
I knew of Ferrara Bakery and its reputation for making some of the city's best cannoli (legend has it they coined the phrase "Holy Cannoli"), so we popped off Mulberry Street and over to Grand. Ferrara is east to spot thanks to its neon signage, giant ice cream cone statues, and it's illuminated marquee, reminding all that cross through its doors that it's stood on this spot for over one hundred years.
The story goes that, in want of a spot to socialize, sip espresso, and play the Italian card game scopa, brothers Enrico Scoppa and Antonio Ferrara opened the cafe's doors in 1892. The cafe was popular, and was eventually taken over by Peter Lepore who arrived in New York as a stowaway, and eventually married Enrico Scoppa's daughter. At the start of the Great Depression in 1929 baking ingredients became scarce and so, to ensure there was as little waste as possible, Lepore and his staff began baking in small batches. This small batch approach led to Ferrara's reputation of fresh-out-of-the-over baked goods, and they've been churning them out ever since. It's now run by the fifth generation of the family.
It's easy to see why it's remained so popular over the years. A long glass display case of eclairs, sfogliatella, pasticciotto, cream puffs, cookies of all shapes and sizes, and, of course, cannoli, is the first thing you see upon entering, and many people are simply standing in place and ogling the desserts the way shoppers would a pretty department store window decorated for the holidays. We opted to sit at one of the small tables along the wall, ordering a variety of their mini desserts and caffe lattes (okay, we actually ordered Prosecco. Pro tip: they don't serve alcohol until after noon on Sundays). They were all delicious but as predicted, if I could only eat just one of them again, I'd take the cannoli.