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

Bushwick is not exactly the neighborhood you’d expect to find an old Italian bakery. Up until recently this area has been mostly a Latin American community. And the new hipsters have not yet chosen cannolis and sfogliatella to gentrify. Beer, coffee, chocolate, bread, sure. But with a few exceptions, they’ve left Italian pastries alone.

But here sits Circo since 1945. And when I found myself out here recently to visit a distillery and taste some vegan Ethiopian food, I was pleasantly surprised.

This felt like a pretty legitimate Italian bakery with most of the usual cakes and cookies, but I also noticed more decorated cakes which I would guess are more popular with Latinos than Italians.
Of course I was here to give their cheesecake a try but while here, I figured I should also sample a little cannoli. Why not, right?
The cannoli was really great. Nice crisp shell that was sweetned with the cold cream and the tangy ricotta was subtle here and it erred a little sweeter than usual, but that was ok with me.
I was shocked at how cheap the cheesecake slice was: $2.75 – we are not in touristy Little Italy anymore.  It also was a very attractive specimen with a browned crust on top and an evenly dispersed cheesy center.
There was no discernible crust on the first full bite and it looked as if the cream ran to the bottom. I soon realized that in fact this had a cake bottom as opposed to a crust.
It’s funny, I was enjoying the rich creaminess and the restrained sweetness, but once I realiized it had a cake bottom, it lost a few points for me. I tend to think cream cheese-based NY-style cheesecakes should have a crust or nothing at all.
But the truth is, it was a very balanced cheesecake and I quite enjoyed it. Ultimately, the cake base didn’t add much one way or the other. In fact, I would have been just as happy to eat around it. But there you go: a traditional Italian pastry shop in the most unexpected place.
It’s so New York to see an old Italian bakery like this filled with young hipster customers and older Latin American customers coming to pick up their cakes. Quinciñeras are probably bigger events for Circo’s than the Feast of Saint Joseph. You might not see an Italian in sight (unless the owners are here) and that’s totally fine.

Does Circo’s Pastry Shop have the best cheesecake in NY? It’s a pretty good one with balanced sweetness and a hearty richness, but out of 10 because I think it’d be even better with a graham cracker crust.

CIRCO’S PASTRY SHOP
1312 Knickerbocker Avenue (at Hart Street),
Bushwick, Brooklyn
(718) 381-2292
circospastryshop.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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