I initially visited Lavo Italian Restaurant after receiving a tip about their oreo zeppoles ($12), but as it happens I ended up getting bowled over by their monster 20-Layer Chocolate Cake ($14) with peanut butter mascarpone.
Over the years, quite a few meat-centric midtown restaurants have adopted the giant multi-layered chocolate cake as their signature dessert. This trend may have come from the 21 Club's popular seven-layer chocolate cake (the Strip House has one too). Although Lavo isn't a steakhouse per se, they seem to have taken this concept—using a large, showy chocolate cake as a draw—and modernized it by making the cake with peanut butter and adding a few layers.
The cake consists of 10 layers of soft devil's food and 10 layers of the most delicious peanut butter cream you've ever tasted. The peanut butter is cut with mascarpone cheese and the result is a cake filling of just the right density. It's heavier than a peanut butter-flavored whipped cream but lighter than a peanut butter chocolate ganache.
Lavo's Executive Chef John Deloach (there's no dedicated pastry chef) totally nails the ratio of cake to cream. There's a perfect amount cake to offset the sweet peanut butter filling. A thin, glossy dark chocolate layer coats the entire cake and a garnish of peanut brittle adds both a crunch to the texture and and saltiness to the flavor.
If you've ever been let down by a wimpy peanut butter pastry cream or frosting on a cupcake or otherwise this is the dessert for you. And if you're a fan of very sweet desserts, the Oreo zeppoles that come with a whipped vanilla milkshake and an Oreo on the side is worth ordering to share.
About the author: Native New Yorker Niko Triantafillou is the founder of DessertBuzz.com his photographs of desserts and pastry chefs have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Dessert Professional Magazine. He is an unabashed foodie nerdling. You can follow him on Twitter at @DessertBuzz.