How Sweet It Is: Dessert Spots Savor Milk Bar Chef’s Win

Christina TosiCourtesy Christina Tosi

If anyone in the culinary world still hasn’t noticed the abundance of unique and delectable dessert shops that sprinkle the East Village, they will now: earlier this week, Momofuku Milk Bar’s chef-owner Christina Tosi clinched a Rising Star Chef of the Year medal at the James Beard Foundation Awards, widely considered “the Oscars of the restaurant industry.” The honor usually goes to savory chefs, but Ms. Tosi is one of a handful of pastry practitioners in the neighborhood that are getting wider recognition.

“I believe in what we do at Milk Bar and it’s incredibly rewarding to know that others do, too,” Ms. Tosi told The Local.

What started out as a small attachment to Momofuku Ssam Bar on 13th Street and Second Avenue has grown into five standalone stores with locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Ms. Tosi credits many things for the success of the shops, and one is the neighborhood where it all started.

“The East Village is so full of life, individuality and downtown swagger,” she said. “It is a great place for the Momofuku family to call home.”

Puddin'Suzanne Rozdeba Making pudding at Puddin’ by Clio.

It’s also quite the sweet spot. Cookies, cannoli and cakes have long had a place in the neighborhood: Veniero’s began serving its homemade biscotti, cannoli and cheesecake on East 11th Street in 1894, and De Robertis’ Pasticceria, around the corner on First Avenue, followed soon after in 1904.

Newer additions to the community hope that Ms. Tosi’s award is just the tip of the cupcake.

Laura O’Neill, a co-owner of Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream on East Seventh Street said she was delighted by her neighbor’s win. “With the boom of dessert spots in the East Village and around the city,” she said, “it is our hope that stores will create products with integrity, using truly exceptional ingredients.”

“Savory and dessert chefs, we all have the same goal. We all want to bring the public something great,” said Clio Goodman, owner of Puddin’ by Clio on St. Marks Place. “Pastry can be serious,” she said, adding that “it brings just as much pleasure as a piece of meat.”

That’s something all these chefs agree on – but don’t expect them to agree on which dish best represents the neighborhood they call home.

Milk Bar employee Marie Myman felt it would be Crack Pie. “It’s addictive,” she said of the shop’s signature sweet, and the neighborhood. “You always want to come back for more and you taste something different every time.”

Kimberly Jeckel of Puddin’ begged to differ: “If the East Village were a dessert, it would be baklava. ‘Cause we’re all a little nuts.”