|Villabate Alba Bakery in Bensonhurt, Brooklyn|
At the holidays each year, countless former residents travel back to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn for delicious Italian baked goods from Villabate Alba. Patrons begin to line up as early as 7 a.m. to beat the mad rush with waits up to four hours. Some Villabate Alba regulars are willing to get less sleep, and brave the dreary long lines so they can purchase delectable Italian sweets for visits with family and friends. And, of course, take home some sacred, sweet goodness to enjoy at a later time themselves.
Since 1979, the Alaimo family has been bringing the finest authentic Sicilian pastries, cookies, cakes and breads to the good people of Bensonhurst and beyond. In fact, orders have been shipped as far as Arizona, California, and Alaska, said Anthony Alaimo, who along with other family members has taken over full-time operational duties for his dad, Emanuele.
|Alaimo holds down the fort at Villabate Alba.|
Previously located on 72nd Street and 18th Avenue, Villabate Alba moved to its present digs at 7001 18th Avenue – the former site of Alba Bakery, a neighborhood institution since 1935 – in 2007. The Alaimos decided to keep the Alba name on the sign out of respect for the previous owner, Alaimo noted, and combined it with Villabate, the name of their hometown in Sicily, Italy.
|Irresistible cakes in the front window at Villabate Alba|
While the once predominately Italian-American neighborhood has become more of a melting pot in the last decade, according to Alaimo, Villabate Alba has been fortunate enough to delight new droves of
customers from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, serving a new generation of pastry lovers.
“Our clientele, originally, only consisted of Italian people,” Alaimo said. “It’s great to see a younger generation of people coming in, reintroducing the pastries and the cookies to new people that have never had the cannoli, that have never had the cookies – who are new to the neighborhood.”
|Trays of goodness!|
What separates Villabate Alba from the rest of the pack? First, it’s the time-honored family and pastry chefs’ recipes that have resulted in arguably the best baked goods in the city. Secondly, it’s the only bakery in the country, according to Alaimo, that uses sheep’s milk imported from Sicily to make the ricotta cream filling that stuffs the St. Joseph’s Day pastries, Lobster Tails, Sfogliatelle, Cream Puffs and Cannoli.
Speaking of cannoli, these are Villabate Alba’s signature bakery item. Light and crispy, with a handmade shell created from scratch, they’re filled with the aforementioned mouth-watering cream and topped with a sweet candied cherry and orange. Only 20 are baked at a time to ensure a freshness that is simply unparalleled. But, they must be made in rapid secession, as 200-300 are sold daily from Monday-Thursday, and 400-600 from Friday-Sunday, Alaimo said. So you can rest assured, the cannolo that graces your happy taste buds hasn’t been lying around forever like a movie hot dog.
|The cannoli at Villabate Alba are by far the freshest I’ve ever eaten. With the creamy ricotta filling and the crunchy shell, these are Italian heaven in a tube.|
Though Villabate Alba caters to the working class, several well-known politicians and celebrities have been known to drop by on occasion, and other luminaries have placed special requests.
“Recently we had Mayor Bloomberg,” Alaimo, a certified pastry chef, recalled. “I think we had the
whole cast of The Sopranos. Oprah, for her farewell show, we made the cake. And she actually made us a plaque. It says, “Once I had a slice of your cake, I fell in love.”
While the Italian pastry shop has expanded its product selections over the years, Alaimo said the family has toyed with the idea of doing something different in the future. But they’re not fully committing to anything at this point.
|Oprah had a slice of cake and fell in love.|
“Our first big move was coming here,” he said. “We’d never done such a big store, we’d never done so many products. So that was number one. In the coming years, you might see the place change, you might see the place grow, and you might see a second location. We just haven’t decided yet.”
Villabate Alba Bakery
7001 18th Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11204
(718) 331 8430