Small wrapped “Baby Watson” cheesecakes were a staple at NYC grocery checkout counters until 2013, when the company that produced them, D’Aiuto, bit the dust, and along with it, their storefront and its neon sign at 408 8th Avenue, in the shadow of Penn Station and its developing twin, the Moynihan Train Hall.
According to Lost City (which is also apparently on permanent hiatus) the D’Aiuto bakery was founded by Italian immigrants Luca and Anna D’Aiuto in 1924 and had always been in the Chelsea area, first on West 25th and finally here on 8th Avenue. Cheesecake scion Mario D’Aiuto developed the signature “Baby Watson” brand, placing a photo of himself as a baby on the wrapper, and naming it “Baby Watson” in an era when an overly-ethnic identity might scare off consumers.
At one point there were four D’Aiuto stores in addition to the flagship and the company had expanded to the Boston area, but then the Baby Watson brand name was sold off, sales declined and gradually, the stores closed down and shipments of the small lunch-size Baby Watson cheesecakes ceased. Like most businesses, D’Aiuto hit is peak and declined. Mario became ill and his wife ran the business for awhile but then sold the building and the business to an Ajay Patel, who said he would continue running the business, and apparently did so for a time, but couldn’t make a go of it.
As of 2018, the building is apparently hostage to the multimillion dollar price that no doubt is being asked for it.