It was a hot summer day this past August and temperatures reached 110 degrees with the heat index. That did not stop Lisa Dosch from the West Gate Restaurant winning the Best Cheesecake in New Jersey for the 5th year in a row. Lisa has become famous throughout the entire east coast and even as far away as Italy for her delicious cheesecakes.
It began in the summer of 2012 when her sister, Donna Maccaro, was insistent that she enter her Pumpkin Cheesecake at the NJ State Fair Cheesecake Contest. “At first I was very hesitant. I had never entered any kind of a baking contest and considered myself a home baker. Far from the professional bakers you see in bakeries.” That first year she entered two categories. The Plain Cheesecake with no topping and the Flavor Cheesecake category. “I was so excited but so nervous at the same time. Everyone was so eager to hear who won the blue ribbons. They called out third and second place and for first place they called out my name. I couldn’t believe my Plain Cheesecake won. But I still had to hear about the flavor category. I hear them call third and second place and held my breath. For first place they called my name. I couldn’t believe that not only did I win one blue ribbon but two. What was most exciting for me was watching the expressions on the judge’s faces as they tasted them. I saw that same expression that I see on the customers at the West Gate Restaurant. You see their eyes close, their lips turn up in a smile and you hear a soft sound of satisfaction, I know they are in cheesecake heaven. I really get a kick out of watching them.”
After winning that year Lisa was hooked and expanded from making the plain and her pumpkin cheesecakes to now over 30 flavors. “I usually have half the flavors available by Friday for the weekend and have all the flavors available for order. Some of the flavors are from customer ideas and others are just flavors that I love. For example, I make a Peanut Butter Cheesecake and a customer asked, How about peanut butter and jelly? I told him to come back in two days where I presented him with a cheesecake that was like eating a PB&J sandwich.” Her brother in law, Michael, always requested an orange cheesecake. One day he asked her if she could do an Orange Coconut flavor. “We both shared a piece to taste it and wow, it blew my mind. The thought of it still amazes me on how delicious it is.”
When Lisa is asked what makes her cheesecakes so amazing and loved by many near and far she tells how cliché it may sound, but it’s so true that anything you cook or bake if there is love and passion put into it then it is guaranteed to satisfy everyone. You can taste and feel the passion in all the flavors, every slice, every bite. Lisa has a huge passion for cooking and especially baking from growing up in the kitchen learning from her mother and grandmother. “They taught me the joy of feeding people. Food has always brought my family together and has given us so many fond memories. Bringing people together with my cheesecakes is one of my biggest joys in life. There have been times I’ve considered retiring from baking cheesecakes. After Labor Day I came back from vacation with the intent of stopping, but hearing responses from customers who came into the restaurant and didn’t see any or I would be out in Rockland and a customer would stop me and tell me how they are crazy for the cheesecakes it made me stop and think. I have to continue for them. For all the customers who have supported me for all these years and who I have put a smile on their faces. So with their support pushing me forward, I do this for them.”
In 2013, 2014, 2015 and this year 2016 Lisa has continued to challenge herself and has won an additional 11 blue ribbons. Her other flavors that have all won 1st place are; her Plain has won first place every year, Blueberry, Coconut, Coquito, Key Lime, Espresso, Wild Berry, Mixed Berry and Pumpkin.
She is often asked which is her favorite. “It’s like asking which of my children do I love more. Every flavor is after flavors that I love and I love them all. If you’re in a fruit mood you can choose between; Strawberry, Cherry, Blueberry, Peach, Orange, Pineapple Coconut, Key Lime. If you’re in a chocolate mood you have; Chocolate Strawberry, Chocolate Chip, Cookies n’ Crème, Chocolate Chocolate Chip or Peanut Butter Cup. If you want to try something very different there is; Coconut, Espresso, Amaretto, Jack Daniel’s Honey, Tequila, Coquito, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Orange Coconut just to name some. The most popular is her Plain Cheesecake. “Some people are very traditional and like the plain while others come and try a different flavor each time.”
“I have a customer who takes six blueberry cheesecakes with her when she flies to Florida to give to her family and friends. I asked her how she does it by herself and she says she packs it a certain way and everyone knows her at the airport now as the lady with the cheesecakes and they take good care of her.”
When you stop in at the West Gate Restaurant you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner and finish it off with a slice. Some customers come in just for cheesecake. The wall displays her ribbons and just some of the famous people who have been in and had a taste. Her favorite fan is Meryl Streep who loved her strawberry cheesecake. Pictured on the wall is Lisa with celebrities like Rick Springfield, Bob Sagat, Arnold Diaz, endless Salsa performers, even the Tampa police department, just to name a few. She was also showcased on Hudson Valley News 12 and Good Day New York. “That was a fun experience. I taught Greg and Roseanne how to make cheesecake but the greatest moment on the show was when Greg pointed to my pumpkin cheesecake and said it was the best thing he’s ever eaten in the history of his life.”
Every cheesecake she makes with her own hands. Her daughter, Laura and nieces Amanda and Nicole will assist her when they’re home from school. “I love having them in the kitchen with me and teaching them the pleasures that my mother and grandmother taught me.”
The West Gate Restaurant and Lounge is also known for their famous omelettes, burgers and more. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at all times daily. The West Gate Lounge has featured fine dancing and music with live Salsa music every Saturday. We feature Grammy award winning bands, and bands from all around the world. Our entertainment is the finest Salsa music. The crowd is a mature crowd that is here because they love the music and they love to dance. “We have customers that have been coming here dancing for over 30 years. You have dancers from beginners to the professionals.” Once a month they change up the music and do a disco night featuring the 70’s disco tribute band, Dancin’ Machine. Full of high energy you can’t help but to dance all night.
Lisa loves to meet new customers and even give a sample taste of some of the flavors. Probably because she especially loves to see their expressions. You can come in for a slice or take one home with you. They are always fresh and she never freezes them. “Thanksgiving and Christmas are my biggest days for orders. I don’t sleep for several days making each one myself. The end result is I’m sharing the holidays at so many homes. It’s like I’m there with them.”
If you’d like to suggest a flavor she would love to hear it.
The West Gate Restaurant and Lounge is located at the West Gate Inn Nyack on Route 59 in Nyack. Her family owns and operates the hotel, restaurant and lounge. “This past Labor Day we just celebrated our 51th anniversary. They are a landmark in Rockland County and have been serving the community and the tourism industry for such a long time. It was built by her father, Masis Parseghian and is run by her two brothers Gregory and Jimmy Parseghian and her sister Donna Maccaro and herself. This is my home away from home. When anyone comes in I feel like they are coming in my home. For a full list of flavors and more information you can visit www.westgaterestaurant.com or to order one you can call 845-358-8100 or just stop in.