Italy's gourmet chocolatier Venchi opened its flagship NYC location last week—a narrow, festive storefront near Union Square that features a full gelato counter, towering walls of treats, extravagant coffee drinks, made-to-order crepes, and, in the back cascading behind the entire seating area, what is purportedly North America's largest chocolate waterfall. These seem like the kind of thing you'd want to be more compact, but sure, it certainly is an impressively expansive display at 10 feet high and 45 feet wide.
Venchi has been in the chocolate-making business since 1878, and already has more than 100 stores in over 70 countries around the world, but this is the company's first standalone shop in the city (both NYC Eataly locations host a Venchi counter) and only the second anywhere in America (Chicago beat us to it). The bulk of the inventory on display here is take-away chocolate in a wide variety of formats. There are about a dozen different kinds of bars for $8.80 each, an array of bins with "pick-n-mix" bite-sized treats ($19.99 a half pound), boxes adorned with Venchi's signature vintage illustrations, and novelties like chocolate cigars.
But it's the cafe/parlor part of Venchi that's perhaps most appealing, especially once the holidays are over and occasions for handing out $40 boxes of chocolate are at a minimum. The Venchi gelato and sorbet comes in 20 mostly classic flavors—Stracciatella, Tiramisu, Pistachio, Raspberry, Dark Chocolate—and, based on the triple scoop I devoured last week, is well worth repeat visits. Definitely splurge on the XV Suprema Chocolate Spread to coat your cone as well.
For all of you weirdos who don't eat ice cream in the winter, there are plenty of chocolatey coffee drinks and just straight-up hot chocolate to keep you cozy and happy. And the Gianduja Crepe I had was spectacular, the shell griddled to a chewy crisp and filled with syrup and crushed, caramelized hazelnuts, or nougatine. A fluffy mound of freshly-made whipped cream on the side will cost you extra, but life is short and you should enjoy as many small pleasures as come your way.
Venchi is located at 861 Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets (646-448-8663; venchi.com)