Alain had another place he remembered fondly in Little Italy: Caffe Roma. I remember buying a cannoli and a few biscotti there, and thought the aromas were appealing, but the flavors weren’t anything to write about here. I found the vibe there to be a bit depressing. Perhaps we hit it on a slow night?
New York magazine has a profile on Caffe Roma:
A Little Italy institution, Caffe Roma bakes its sweet-ricotta sfogliatella, biscotti, pignoli cookies and other confections right on the premises. “We’re a strictly Italian pastry shop, not a Starbucks,” says manager Vincent “Buddy” Zeccardi. (His parents own the shop, which has been in the family—and in the same location—since 1891.) If you’re south of Houston and in the mood for Amaretto Italian cheesecake, cassatina sponge cake, or pasticciotto, step inside and breathe a sigh of relief. But consider yourself forewarned: The cannoli are bigger than hotdog buns, and the multi-layered French Napoleon is not for the faint of heart (or clogged of artery). Long countertops, wood cabinets, a green pressed-tin ceiling, and inch-wide black and white hexagonal floor tiles convey an unmistakable old New York feel. That sense of tradition is only heightened around Christmas, Easter, St. Joseph’s Day, and Thanksgiving when the bakery churns out specialty custard cakes and other holiday goodies. Wedding cakes are also available. — Nina Mehta
I also discovered, that, according to a book called Manhattan Mafia Guide: Hits, Homes & Headquarters, by Eric Ferrara and Arthur Nash, Caffe Roma used to be a mob hangout. Fascinating. I know so very little about Italian American culture in that period. Would love to hear from the owners themselves more about the history of the place.