There are countless ways to explore the city that never sleeps, and perhaps one of the best ones is through a culinary adventure. Nowhere else in the world will you find a bigger, more diverse palette of global foods. Given’s New York City’s unique mix of ethnic cuisines, you not only bite out of its rich history and culture, but you experience the city in a whole new way.
With NYC Walking Food Tours, you will taste some of the best Italian and Chinese foods New York has to offer. Perfectly suitable for both visitors and people that have lived in NY their entire lives, the tour reveals authentic Italian and Chinese dishes from century old businesses and uncovers hidden gems of the once Dutch farms occupying today’s downtown area.
Starting right from the heart of Chinatown, the founder Alana Hoye – lead the group of 12 people towards Little Italy, to Alleva Diary, the first tasting of the day. Known as the oldest Italian Cheese store in America, Alleva has been serving homemade mozzarella and prosciutto for over 100 years. In what was an enrapturing smell of dangling hams and cheeses, Alana distributed generous portions of San Daniele prosciutto and unsalted bocconcini (small mozzarella cheeses).
Right down the block, at Di Palo’s Fine Foods, we tried two imported cheeses: a cow’s milk cheese known as Piave and a sheep’s milk cheese known as Moliterno. Here, it was evident it was so much more than a simple cheese store; rather, it’s about the experience, of talking with the owners, hearing their stories and their commendations and surely, of trying some of their best cheeses.
Following the first two old-school delis, we stopped for some amazing Grandma Pie at Grand Appetito, a new establishment. About this time, most of us were feeling full; which essentially meant, it was high time for dessert. We followed Alana into Ferrara’s Bakery and Café where we were presented with bite-sized, heavenly cannolis. Famous for being a traditional Sicilian dessert, the Ferrara cannolis were smaller crispy tubes filled with ricotta and chocolate chips.
Midway through our tour, the next stop had us crossing over Canal St, past the fruit stalls and the fishmongers and right into Mulberry St. We stopped at Pongrsi for a sit-down meal, the oldest family-run and operated Thai restaurant in New York City.
Entering Columbus Park, countless elders were playing cards crowded the park, and there was a generous audience enjoying the traditional Chinese opera. In Chinatown’s only park is where we tasted the Tasty Dumplings the locals eat during the Chinese New Year and observed what is said to be their outdoor living room.
Columbus Park was built on what was once the center of the infamous Five Points neighborhood. During the 19th century, this was the most dangerous ghetto area of immigrant New York, congested with tenements housing as many as 14 in 3 tiny rooms (as portrayed in Jacob Riis’ book How the Other Half Lives and the film Gangs of New York).
To conclude the tour, we ventured into the original Chinatown, unto Pell St. One of its side streets is Doyers St, known as the haircut alley for its numerous barbershops and hair stylists. Doyers St is also peculiar given its sharp bend in the middle; early in the century, the bend in the street became known as the Bloody Angle because of numerous shootings among the Tong Gangs of Chinatown that lasted into the 1930s.
We stopped by Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the oldest Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, where we had the original Egg Roll. By the end of our 7 “meals,” we were all undeniably full and satisfied.
My main takeaway – apart from a full belly – was the fusion of elements: history, culture, and food in off the beaten path locations. You can book the 3-hour tour on zerve for $49 or call them at (212) 209-3370.
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Follow Monica Suma in her whimsical travel adventures as she relishes in arts & culture around the world, boutique hotels and NYC gems. You can also find her on Twitter @MonicaSuma.