Centuries ago, as legend has it, desperate Sicilians who prayed to San Giuseppe were spared a ruinous drought and famine. To this day, Italians (and Italian Americans) give thanks with a lavish spread every March 19, the feast day of this patron saint of confectioners—and yes, they save room for dessert. The classic sweets are sfingi or zeppole di San Giuseppe—fried or baked dough puffs, piped full of ricotta or pastry cream—and devotees have been swapping tips on their favorites.
For bob96's money, the best can be found at Villabate Alba in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, followed by those from Court Pastry Shop and F. Monteleone Bakery in Carroll Gardens. bob, a habitué of the city's old Italian enclaves, finds that New York bakeries generally do better with the ricotta-filled sfingi but "seem to have a hard time making the luscious crema pasticcera that, topped with a dark amarena cherry, is the classic zeppole filling."
scunge favors the San Giuseppe treats at Circo's Pastry Shop, a Bushwick fixture that's "been going strong for a long time." italianices says Circo's cuccidati (Sicilian fig cookies) and cannoli—filled to order, as they should be but too often aren't—are also quite good.
And in Queens, La Guli Pastry Shop in Astoria was the last pasticceria standing after zeugma and fellow judges staged a throwdown of sfingi di San Giuseppe from around the city: "It was an epic battle, but the winner was La Guli."
Villabate Alba [Bensonhurst]
7001 18th Avenue (at 70th Street), Brooklyn
Court Pastry Shop [Carroll Gardens]
298 Court Street (near Degraw Street), Brooklyn
F. Monteleone Bakery & Cafe [Carroll Gardens]
355 Court Street (between Union and President streets), Brooklyn
Circo's Pastry Shop [Bushwick]
312 Knickerbocker Avenue (at Hart Street), Brooklyn
La Guli Pastry Shop [Astoria]
21-15 Ditmars Boulevard (between 29th and 31st streets), Astoria, Queens