Painstakingly preserved traditions passed down for generations. A family-run atmosphere that makes every customer feel like part of the clan. And cannolis – sweet, sweet cannolis. Along with his sister and wife, Rocco Generoso, Jr. is taking his father’s legacy – a Greenwich Village Italian pastry shop with recipes dating back to the turn of the century – and bringing the deliciousness to his hometown of Bay Ridge. We caught up with Rocco to talk about recipes, legacies, and again – those amazing cannolis (we’re a little obsessed, in case you couldn’t tell).
What’s the one must-try that you recommend to first timers?
You have to try the cannolis. We’re famous for them – and we’re pretty much number one – I’m comfortable in saying that. They’re hand rolled. I don’t know many shops that do that anymore: most just buy them pre-made. We still cut and roll them ourselves, the authentic way, and our cream is amazing. Everything is traditional, made using the best ingredients. My staff has been with me since they were 18, some of them 35 years, so they’re all skilled at the techniques.
Where did your recipes come from?
With the business, my father bought the recipes too, which come from a book from the late 1800s that the original owners created. The only modifications we’ve made are the ones NYC requires us to do – such as no trans fats. Everything’s made by hand: still hand rolled and hand pumped. My father’s idea was that if you have to use a machine, you have to modify the recipe, and you change the taste – and he never wanted to change the recipes. The staff uses two tin cans to roll the dough out. It’s really the way its been done since the early 1900s.
How long have you been at it?
I’ve been doing this full-time since I turned 20, so 16 years. I learned from my father who’s been doing it since 1957. He purchased the Manhattan locationin 1974. I never went to school – I learned everything from working with him. Growing up, my father was my role model. We lived well, and I saw everything he sacrificed to provide for his family. It was extremely worthwhile, and something I want to emulate. My father paved a nice road for us to walk on, but I didn’t want to just ride it – I wanted to take what he’d given us and make it even greater, which is what brought me into wholesale and our second location in Brooklyn. I want to make my own legacy for my son.
What do your customers say about you?
Our Brooklyn location just opened a year ago, we have a good rapport with our returning customers. The one thing they say is we make them feel like we’ve known them forever, like they’re at home. The service is amazing – my wife is on top of customer service. I was born and raised in this neighborhood and I know a lot of people here. It’s sweet for me. I’m home.
What do you love most about what you do?
I get satisfaction out of knowing people enjoy what I create. They tell me what I made was amazing, that’s the greatest satisfaction for me. That’s what keeps me going. I always want people to enjoy what we make and do. What we do here is preserve the traditions of the neighborhood. We constantly are told that it’s so nice to have a place like this here. People say the shop brings them back and reminds them of their childhood.