Not all cheesecake is created equal. There are two main camps: New York Style, featuring good ol’ fashioned cream cheese–like you’d put on your bagel, and then there’s the Italian Style, which relies on Ricotta cheese for its heavenly base.
New York Style remains the most popular, and if you see an unspecified version of this lusciously rich dessert on the menu at a local restaurant, chances are it will be some variant of this cream cheese-based standard. Only very special Italian restaurants dare to take on the elaborate delicacy of the Ricotta Cheesecake. And for good reason: a bad version of this classic dessert can be a bland mess of fatty droopiness. Sounds delightful, right? Well the flipside here is that when it’s executed properly, Italian Cheesecake is one of the unencumbered joys of existence.
My personal favorites in the city are offered at Stelline (330 Gough Street) in Hayes Valley and at Firenze By Night Ristorante (1429 Stockton Street) in North Beach.
However, if you want to take a more hands-on approach in procuring this most divine of desserts, making your own Ricotta Cheesecake at home is not difficult at all. Here’s the recipe I use. I’ve never been much of a pastry chef, but with about $20 worth of ingredients and a few hours in the kitchen last night, I was able to produce this masterpiece of delectability:
Mama mia! My Italian Grandmother would be proud. Bring one over to your next dinner party, particularly if there are any paesans in attendance. It’s a sure way to get in good with any hard-to-impress Italian in-laws. Just make sure to follow these instructions to a T, or else: fuhgeddaboudit! The instructional video below presents a slight variation on the recipe I have included, but I needed to share it because this dude is flippin’ awesome:
And to get you psyched up for Outside Lands in one month (ONE MONTH!), here’s the festival headliner with their own version of cheesecake: