Where to grab a slice of Europe in New York City
There’s no other city that impresses my inner glutton than New York. Take a short taxi ride, or walk just one block, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by endless choice. With rows of eateries lined up side by side, the big apple is as diverse as it’s also abundant.
From Afghan kebabs to Colombian arepas, there’s no going hungry in this steaming metropolis.
And one group within the large NYC gastronomy umbrella is its cluster of excellent European cafés. Whether you’re in the mood for French patisserie, or lingering for Italian, these are the places you need to bookmark.
Best French cafés in New York City
Search the term ‘French bakery in New York’ and you’ll receive an overwhelming number of results. However, rather than having to sift through pages and reviews, I’ve got 2 French NYC bakeries that tick every box.
1. The French café in the un-French area
About 30-seconds walk from one of the exits at Bowery St subway station is Ceci-Cela Patisserie. In an area that looks and feels predominantly Chinese, the canopied French café feels a little out of place. However, once you see the Parisian exterior, you quickly forget about the surrounding area.
At the forefront of Ceci-Cela is French pastry chef Laurent Dupal. He’s been overlooking the café’s patisserie production for over 25 years. Dupal also ensures that the pastries you buy at Ceci-Cela are as authentic as those you’d find in Paris.
Because of this, he only insists upon using the best ingredients to make the highest artisanal quality pastry.
European café NYC — authentic French pastries to try at Ceci-Cela
A mini Paris in NYC
Stepping inside the café brings back warm memories of our time in Marseille. A counter filled with tempting pastries and calorie-defying patisserie stares lovingly back at you. The fragrant allure of coffee permeates the air, filling every corner of the very French feeling atmosphere.
Alongside the usual sweet treats like pain au chocolat, Ceci-Cela also serves savory pastries, like cream cheese and salmon croissants.
Come here for the delicious patisserie, and to pretend like you’re in Paris — if only for an hour.
Ceci-Cela Patisserie, 14 Delancey St
2. The café with the cronut — European café NYC
It’d be amiss of me to write about French bakeries in New York City, and not mention Dominique Ansel. This superb bakery/café in NYC has been putting smiles on customers’ faces and pastries in their bellies since 2013.
They also have a sister shop, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, over in the west village. A free-seating café, with an open kitchen, it challenges the traditional bakery model.
More than 70% of the menu is finished, assembled or baked when you place your order. This means being able to enjoy your beignet the minute it comes out of the oven.
Believe the pastry hype
However, there’s one particular item missing at Dominique Ansel Kitchen, and that’s the legendary Cronut®. This pastry hybrid between a croissant and a donut is flaky, tasty and sinfully good.
I’d my first Cronut® experience at Dominique Ansel in London, and was instantly hooked.
Flavors vary month to month, ranging from fruity toppings to chocolaty goodness, and they only come around once. The Cronut® isn’t something you’d eat — or would want to eat — every day, but as a one-off, it’s a must.
Come here for award-winning pastry, in a contemporary and clean setting.
Dominique Ansel Bakery, 189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson)
Dominique Ansel Kitchen, 137 Seventh Avenue South
A pioneering pastry invention, the Cronut® at Dominique Ansel Bakery — European café NYC
“The first bite’s soft, doughy, and leaves a delightful crescent-shaped powder sugar mustache upon pulling away.”
Map: where to eat European in NYC
Best Italian bakeries in New York City
I must confess that I’m a little biased when it comes to Italian desserts. Spending lengthy periods of time in Italy has spoiled my palate, leaving me only wanting the finest patisserie.
With a large Italian community in New York, I knew that competition would also be tough. So, after doing a little research, I found 2 Italian bakeries in NYC that came pretty close.
3. The Italian bakery with the Tuscan donut
Its slim shopfront is a misleading entryway to a calorie-busting display of baked goods. Opened in March 2019, Angelina Bakery in midtown New York City is quickly becoming an NYC favorite.
You’re greeted by the goods on offer the second you enter the door. Rows of plump croissants, some topped with fruits, others filled with cream, sit side by side. However, for me, there was only one item I was gunning for: the bombolone.
European café NYC — Italian donut euphoria
This pillowy soft donut has primary roots in Tuscany, but other regions in Italy also make their own varieties. The name comes from the donut’s circular shape: ‘bomba’ meaning bomb in Italian. Fillings can include marmalade, a creamy custard or my personal favorite, chocolate.
At Angelina Bakery, the choice is plentiful as it’s also hard. I eventually settle upon the Nutella bombolone and an iced tea. The first bite’s soft, doughy, and leaves a delightful crescent-shaped powder sugar mustache upon pulling away.
Once the Nutella hit arrives, so too does a volcanic flow of melty chocolate. Be sure to have enough napkins to hand, and throw any inhibitions out of the window when devouring.
A costly bakery experience
As much as I enjoyed the Nutella-filled bombolone, I’ve also to point out the cost. While it’s widely known that New York City is crazy expensive, what we paid at Angelina Bakery was too much.
For 1 bombolone, 1 savory croissant and 2 drinks, we paid just over $30 (£23 / €27), including tax. Don’t get me wrong, the quality of the pastry is excellent, but in hindsight, it’s still just baked goods.
On top of that, the upstairs seating area wasn’t clean during our (morning) visit, with overflowing trash clearly visible. If you do plan to eat in, try grabbing a table downstairs instead.
Above all, I’d still recommend trying Angelina Bakery— just take note of the high prices.
Angelina Bakery, 575 8th Avenue
A Nutella-filled donut bomb explosion at Angelina Bakery — European café NYC
4. The Milanese patisserie — European café NYC
Step inside the Madison Avenue branch of Sant Ambroeus, and savor the atmosphere of retro Milan.
Sant Ambroeus is named after the patron saint of Milan, Saint Ambrogio. The first café opened in 1936 in Milan, before opening overseas during the second half of the 20th century.
The Madison Avenue outpost first opened in New York in 1982. Today, there are 5 locations — including this one — in Manhattan to satisfy your craving for Italian.
Diners can grab a freshly baked ‘cornetto’ for breakfast, a soft-filled panino for lunch, or a robust Bolognese for dinner. Personally, I’d recommend coming here for the cakes. The selection’s plentiful, and the choice damn hard.
Fellow chocoholics may appreciate a sublime slice of gianduja cake. This decadent cake’s made from hazelnut sponge and wafers, gianduja mousse and hazelnut cream layers. In other words, heaven on a plate.
Sant Ambroeus, 1000 Madison Avenue and various other locations
Sant Ambroeus — which one of these cakes most appeal to you?
5. The café with the cardamom rolls
In the uber-cool meatpacking district of New York City is one bakery bringing Scandinavian cool — and breads — to the neighborhood.
Fabrique Bakery opened in May 2019, bringing a buzz of excitement to New Yorkers, and nostalgia for Swede expats. It’s the first outpost of the Swedish bakery in NYC, with lines forming outside the door.
Swedish buns — European café NYC
Like Angelina Bakery, there’s one item here that sells like hotcakes: the cardamom rolls. So popular are the rolls, that trays of pastries ready to be baked sit alongside those just out of the oven.
Naturally, I’d to try one for myself. The top has a nice crunch, with the sweet glaze of the bun contrasting with the spice of the cardamom. I’d never tried cardamom before, and was pleasantly surprised.
Other items worth mentioning at Fabrique Bakery are the breads and the savory croissants. I also took home half a loaf of the sourdough bread, which was outstanding. However, at $10 (£7.70 / €9), it’s probably the most I’ve ever paid for bread.
Come here for authentic Swedish baked goods and also for the Scandi vibes.
Fabrique Bakery, 348 W 14th Street
European café NYC — saffron buns at Fabrique Bakery are just one of many tasty treats on offer
6. The café flying the Portuguese flag
If there’s one thing I love doing in New York — apart from eating — is walking everywhere. As I left Paris behind at Ceci-Cela, I stumbled across Lisbon at a small Portuguese café just 5 minutes away.
Joey Bats Café might have a small shopfront, but it makes up for it with its big personality. Inside, are walls filled with signs of the café’s Portuguese heritage.
Posters showcasing Portuguese culture are mounted proudly alongside colors of the Portuguese flag. In fact, the interior’s reminiscent of some of the snack bars I visited during my travels in Lisbon and Porto.
The Portuguese main event — European café NYC
Aside from the authentic interior of Joey Bats Café, there’s one item that has customers flocking in their droves. The melt-in-the-mouth Pastéis de Nata is a rich egg custard filling inside a crispy pastry case.
As their website says, ‘imagine a warm crème brûlée wrapped inside a croissant’. How good does that sound?! At the time of my visit, one custard tart cost a reasonable $3 (£2 / €2.70). I find Pastéis de Nata to be quite rich, and one usually satisfies my sweet tooth. If one isn’t enough for you, Joey Bats Café also sell 6 in a box for $15 (£12 / €13.50).
There are currently 2 branches in Manhattan, the one I visited being on the lower east side of NYC.
Come here for a warm custardy tart, and also for a cup of the no.1 coffee in Portugal, DELTA Café.
Joey Bats Café, 129 Allen Street (Lower East Side), 10002 / 501 Lexington Ave (Midtown East), 10017
Oooey and gooey — freshly baked Portuguese egg tarts at Joey Bats Café in NYC
7. Where Austrian food meets art
For my last European café in NYC, I decided to make my last stop a Viennese one. Café Sabarsky — named after the museum’s co-founder, Serge Sabarksy — sits in the Neue Gallerie New York on Museum Mile.
The café gives patrons a taste of the Viennese hangouts that were centers of intellectual and artistic life. Inside, are period features such as the lighting fixtures and a stunning Austrian Bösendorfer grand piano.
It’s refined as it’s traditional, bringing back fond memories of our time at the incredible Hotel Sacher in Vienna.
European café NYC — a sweet and sophisticated afternoon
Depending on the time you visit, lines can build up quickly at Café Sabarsky. They also only take reservations for dinner, 6pm to 9pm Thursday to Sunday, so plan your visit accordingly.
For all other times, it’s a first come, first served basis. I waited for about 20 minutes for a table, and that was on a fairly busy Thursday afternoon.
If possible (and available), also try asking for a window seat. The booth-style seating’s not only comfortable, but you also get views overlooking Central Park.
Luxury hotels in Tallinn – lounge area in the Suite at Hotel St. Petersbourg
The first thing that caught my eye when sitting down was the cake-filled table. Austrian classics like Sachertorte, apple strudel and a fruit crumble were just several of the desserts on display.
Towards the front of the café is also another chilled counter with stands of homemade cakes. It was from this stand that I went with my selection: a chocolate mousse and hazelnut layer cake. Light, refined and a gorgeous texture in the mouth, it was everything I’d expected.
A taste of Vienna in NYC
Café Sabarsky is a charming place for a Viennese afternoon tea in New York City. As with most of the places in this post, many of the menu items are pricey. However, the atmosphere does make up for it, plus you’ve also the museum to walk off the cake calories afterwards.
Come here for delectable Viennese dishes and desserts, and also for a spot of art.
Café Sabarsky, Neue Gallerie New York, 1048 Fifth Avenue (at 86th street), 10028
Which of these NYC European cafés would you most like to visit? Are there any that you’d like to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.
Till next time, happy boutique travels x
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience; a demographic (late 20s onwards) that enjoys glamping over camping, staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels, sampling the local food and wine, cultural activities, and indulging in a spot of wellness on their travels. Read more here…