Reader Laura suggests that the original inspirations for New York cheesecakes weren’t Italian cheesecakes:
Since Leo Linderman (Lindy’s) and Arnold Reuben were both German immigrants, and since Reuben claimed that Lindy’s stole his German chef with the cheesecake recipe, it is more likely that the inspiration was German kaesekuchen (or some Eastern European cheesecake) than Italian ricotta cheesecake.
Joan Nathan, in Jewish Cooking in America, has this quote from Arnold Reuben, Jr.: “We were the first one to have the original cream cheesecake at Reuben’s Restaurant . . .We made it with Breakstone’s cream cheese with whole eggs and cream. Everybody else was making it with cottage cheese in those days…”
It seems like a persuasive argument. By the 1800’s most cultures in Europe had some sort of cheesecake preparation to their credit, and it makes sense that the first New York cheesecake makers would have been inspired by the cakes from their ancestral lands. Thanks very much Laura!