My search for the best cheesecake in New York continues….

MONA LISA BAKERY, 1476 86th Street (between Bay 8th and 15th Avenue), Bath Beach, Brooklyn

I’ve always preferred a cheesecake that was both creamy and dense but somehow also light and fluffy. I know it’s possible – just check out Eileen’s. But after doing much research on the topic, many people claim that traditional New York cheesecake should be dense and not fluffy. I tend to think that dishes evolve (especially cheesecake – look at its historic Greek origins) and tastes change. But even if the cheesecake leans on the side of dense and creamy, there needs to be a balance and enjoyable quality.

When I took a bite of Mona Lisa Bakery’s classic cheesecake, I finally understood what classic New York cheesecake should be like. Here, the cake is not fluffy, but still smooth with just a hint of sweetness underneath the tart, citrusy cream cheese flavors.

Large Room Number 1

This spot (not to be confused with another Mona Lisa in Bensonhurst – I might have to pit their cheesecakes against each other) has been around for almost a century. The shop is comprised of large rooms – giant spaces that you can only find way out in the boroughs. The first room is a bright bakery shop with lots of Italian goodies on display. I spied another unoccupied room (for private events?) in the back.

Large Room Number 2

And the third area is for dining and it feels like a diner meets a coffee shop meets a bar. It’s a little dingy with old tables and chairs. Although they serve a full food menu, I didn’t really feel the need to linger for very long.

No Regular Here

But I stayed long enough to taste a slice of cheesecake. They only had chocolate or strawberry available by the slice (no regular) and their classic Italian cheesecake is only available at certain times of the year. This wasn’t one of them.

Strawberry Cheesecake at MONA LISA BAKERY

I learned that they bake the cake in a wood-burning brick oven. I couldn’t taste much of the wood, but the cake was nicely constructed. It was undeniably dense and with a restrained sweetness that gave way to a nice cheesy tang. Here, the density didn’t bother me. It felt rich, but not like a brick. Perhaps it was because the cake was served just above room temperature.

Dense and Delicious

A sweet strawberry glaze topped the cake, a drizzle of chocolate held it up, and some whipped cream sat by its side. The accoutrements made perfect sense and rooted it in the flavors of Italian New York. I was surprised to see the block of cheese didn’t have any crust – just some graham cracker crumbles on the back and a beautiful browned bottom.

There She Is!!

The entire experience felt iconically New York. So regardless of what people say about New York cheesecake versus Italian cheesecake, there are places, like Mona Lisa Bakery, that make it both authentic and crowd pleasing.

Does Mona Lisa Bakery have the best cheesecake in NY? So far they have the most authentic and it’s both sweet/tart and dense/unleaden and because of that interplay they earn a 9 out of 10.

MONA LISA BAKERY AND CAFÉ
1476 86th Street (between 15th Avenue and Bay 8th Street),
Bath Beach, Brooklyn
(718) 837-9053
monalisabakeryandcafe.com
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Category: Cheesecake

About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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