La Bella Ferrara has been delighting denizens of Little Italy and countless visitors since the late 1800s, according to its fourth-generation owner Liz Lee Grazioso, but it never expanded to Brooklyn before she took the business over from her godfather in 2021.
“I grew up in the cafe and the bakery,” Lee Grazioso says, referring to the present Manhattan shop and its previous sit-down space, which closed in the twenty-teens. “I fell in love with it when I was very young, like a teenager. If I didn’t take over, the chance of the bakery being closed forever was very high. I would never, never, if I could help it, let the bakery go, because there’s so much history in that building,” she says.
“Growing up at the bakery, I had so much fun meeting new people from all over the world, having coffee there. We have the freshest pastry, the best cookies in the whole of Little Italy, and I could never see that bakery being closed.”
Many of the present staff have been there for decades, according to Lee Grazioso.
“We all kind of grew up in the bakery and the cafe,” she says. “It’s a small mom-and-pop store. There’s nothing fancy about it. The thing I’m working on now is to bring that bakery up to the 21st century.”
In addition to keeping the patisserie popular, and her plans to bring back its cafe component, Lee Grazioso, is introducing La Bella Ferrara to a new borough in a new spot at Time Out Market New York in Brooklyn on October 12. The outpost has nine varieties of mini cannoli to mix and match, plus lobster tail pastries. Guests can expect the classic, familiar flavors that Ferrara’s established over the years.
“What I’m offering at Time Out is the same as what is in the bakery,” she says. “Nothing changes.” Except maybe the occasional specials to come.
Nine different flavors will be available upon opening, with fillings all piped into fried shells on-site, including the ever-popular traditional option.
“People want to know, what is a [La Bella Ferrara] traditional cannoli,” Lee Grazioso says. “So the traditional is always on top.”
“Each region makes the cannoli filling a little different,” she says. “We use cow’s milk ricotta instead of sheep’s milk. Sheep’s milk is a little gamey. This ricotta is milder and it’s more pleasant to the palate, especially if someone’s trying a cannoli for the first time, the cow’s milk ricotta tastes just like candy. If I didn’t tell you it was ricotta cheese, you would never know.”
Lee Grazioso says that pistachio, which she added to the menu in April, is the second best seller.
Like the Mulberry Street sweet-seeker magnet, Time Out Market New York’s satellite will also carry cannoli in flavors like chocolate, peanut butter, tiramisu (with a mascarpone-based center), red velvet (cream cheese), mint (heavy cream) and chocolate mousse (heavy cream), in addition to its top-selling pistachio (cream combo) and traditional (in a plain or chocolate-dipped shell) options.
Each of the nine varieties of mini-cannoli is $4.50. A gluten-free take on the traditional option is $6. Lobster tails are also $6.
La Bella Ferrara will be open on the first floor of 55 Water Street from Wednesday, October 12.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.