Sunday, March 8, 2015

Foods of NYC Tour

As I've shared with you many times, I think one of the best ways to get to know a city is through its food. And we all know that one of the top foodie capitals of the United States is... you guessed it...New York City. That's why on a recent trip to the Big Apple, I was excited to embark on a culinary journey through an area of the city that is known as an artists' haven, a Bohemian Capital, and home to the most authentic Italian food: the Greenwich Village. I wouldn't have known what spots to visit on my own so I decided to go on a foodie tour with Foods of New York Tours.

After looking at the different tours offered by Foods of New York Tours (they have a bunch), we decided to go with their Original Greenwich Village Tour, which took us to popular mom-and-pop food shops through the tree-lined and charming streets of one of NYC's oldest Italian neighborhoods, the historic west village.

As I have done in the past during my travels, I was looking for a tour that not only offered great food and a peek into the vibe and culture of the city,  but also included engaging historical information about the area, and recommendations to must-visit restaurants as well.

Bundled in layers of coats, and sporting our mittens, we met at Murray's Cheese Shop to start the tour. The aroma of cheese was enticing and I wanted to try all they offered, but since we were starting our feast at another location, we decided to save our craving for our return later in the day.

Our first stop was Joe's Pizza, a staple in the neighborhood that's been around since 1975. This family-owned spot serves the New York Style Pizza we all know and love - a cheesy delight with a thin and crispy crust. Voted "The Best Slice" (we never really knew by whom)  the pizza is prepared with homemade sauce, and made with tomatoes imported from Italy and low gluten dough. It is flavored with New York's finest, and I'm not referring to the cops, but to the NYC tap water, which locals swear is what makes it as popular as it is. You've probably heard of the place, as it's been featured in movies like Along Came Polly and Spider Man 2. We admired the photo-filled walls and grabbed a slice of heaven; closing our eyes to enjoy it.

From here, we walked  over to a O & Co., an olive oil shop that sells only the finest products from single state producers. We were given an informative presentation on harvesting olives as we munched on Tuscan bread topped with gourmet oil, and infused with basil and a fleur de salt finishing touch. After we oohed and aahed for a bit, they served us some popcorn sprinkled with truffle oil and that just took the gourmet experience to a new level.

The temperature was cold outside but it felt great to be eating our way through the neighborhood like locals. Our tour guide, Kerrianne, made the experience fun and she had some interesting facts to share with us in just about every corner. In keeping with the Italian theme, we stopped at Faicco's Italian Specialties, and while we waited out on the sidewalk, our tour guide brought us a platter of Arancini, or Rice Balls, which is one of their signature items. These were the kind of balls I didn't want to stop chewing. They were creamy and delicious, and I could see myself becoming quite addicted to them. Faicco's has been around for a while too. It turns out the family who own it came to New York in the 1800s and opened the store in 1900. It's definitely a must-try in the Greenwich Village.

As we walked to our next stop down Cornelia Street, Kerrianne entertained us with fun facts. She pointed out an old horse stable to our right where the Food Network filmed an episode of Next Chef and showed us the exact location where Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick had their first date: the Cornelia Street Cafe. Awww.

Next up, we headed over to our first sit down lunch stop at Trattoria Pesce Pasta, a classic NYC seafood joint that offers a small menu of fresh fish. Funny as this may sound, we didn't sample any seafood there but rather enjoyed their world famous meatball. Again, this one was voted best meatball, and again I'm not 100% sure by whom, but I can tell you it was really good. It's no wonder they want to show it off.

Our second sit down tasting followed our first and it was at an Italian restaurant (surprised?) serving Naples style food. This place was very charming, complete with a woodfire oven, and we were lucky enough to sit in the chef's table where we got a close-up look at the culinary action as it happened. Our sampling here was their homemade Eggplant Rollatini, filled with buffala ricotta cheese and baked in their woodfire oven. Now while alcohol is not included in the food tour, you can purchase wine or another alcoholic beverage at this restaurant at a special price.

Before heading back to Murray's to try some of their amazing cheese, we made a quick stop for our first dessert treat (yes... there was more than one). It was at Milk and Cookies Bakery, where we grabbed some gigantic and soft chocolate chip cookies. You know the kind. The ones you want to dip in a glass of cold milk.

Since we were done with all the savory dishes in the tour (quite a lot of food huh?) we returned to Murray's to try some of their amazing cheese. They had set up a nice spot for us in a private room upstairs, usually reserved for tastings and classes. After a few minutes, out came a platter of delectable cheeses and pairings. There was ricotta cheese served with apricots, nutty sweet gouda cheese, sharp and flavorful cheddar and my personal favorite, the cheese crisps. We were in cheesy nirvana for a while.

The tour had already lasted several hours and the time had flown by. I loved hearing the history behind the narrowest house in the neighborhood and the oldest house built in 1799. A fan of the arts, I was star struck learning about Cherry Lane Theatre and the magic it held and was excited about walking in front of the building I always saw when I watched Friends. You would've thought this was it, but there was one more sweet stop.

It was at Rocco's Pasticceria to have one of their mind blowing, fresh filled cannolis. The tour wouldn't have been complete without having one of these babies. This place has been around since 1974 and you would swoon if you took a lot at all the desserts they offer. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

By the time we were finished, I felt a little closer to the Greenwich Village and was looking forward to trying out another one of the food tours offered by Foods of New York tours on my next NYC trip. If you're planning to visit soon, I highly recommend treating yourself to one of these... in a New York minute. For more information, visit their website at

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