It was a cool, comfortable, yet glum day in New York City. Not what some would consider ideal for NYC Food Tours, but it turned out to be the perfect way to spend my morning. We met in front of a food market on Canal Street, and moved to small alley for a meet and greet. A tour of 8 was the perfect size for us to talk, get to know each other, and share stories. Ahoy NYC Tours and Tasting set up the tour of Little Italy and Chinatown to be convenient, interesting, and most importantly – tasty. We got just what we signed up for.
En route to our first stop, we got a brief history lesson that I found particularly interesting. Our tour guide, Alana, explained how Little Italy came to be. After Italian immigration to the United States in the 19th century, Italians from Naples settled on Mulberry Street, and those of Sicilian heritage called Elizabeth Street home. The people got their food and other items from wooden carts throughout the neighborhood alongside horse and buggies and buildings called tenements, or multi-family homes. After a mafia-like organization called the Black Hand began to bully the local people by imposing a tax like system for “protection,” Italians began migrating to the outer boroughs, and into Long Island and New Jersey. But I digress…
The food tour began at Alleva Dairy, where we sampled fresh, homemade mozzarella and prosciutto – two of my favorite things, and they were perfection. Alana recommended wrapping the prosciutto around the mozzarella, but you already knew to do that! From there we walked to Di Palo’s Fine Foods which was more of a market. There, we sampled a few other cheeses – a cow’s milk called Piave and a sheep’s milk known Moliterno. Both to me, tasted like slight variations of parmesan. Both of these locations have been around for over a century, so we tried something a little more modern for our next stop. Grand Appetito has only been around for about a year, but they served us one of the best grandma slices I’ve ever tasted. Definitely will be returning there. We ended our historic tour of Little Italy at Ferrara’s, a famous staple of Italian culture in New York. Known for their desserts and pastries, we sampled a traditional Sicilian dessert, the cannoli. Now, I’m not even a big fan of cannolis, I think they’re too sweet, but this one was perfection! A few chocolate chips in the middle added that extra something.
At this point we shift gears and began seeing a lot more Asian writings on storefronts and awnings, so it becomes clear we’ve started the Chinatown portion of our tour. We actually began at a Thai restaurant called Pongsri, the oldest family-run and operated Thai spot in NYC. We sat down here which was fantastic, because taking a load off was long overdue. We were served traditional Thai dishes pad see ew, orange chicken, and chicken pra raam. It was accompanied by some white rice and everything went well together. Thai food is not a personal favorite of mine, but I enjoyed what I ate. After a brief history of the neighborhood, we found ourselves standing on the outskirts of Columbus Park waiting for our next treat. While we took a quick glance around the park, our guide went to Tasty Dumpling to get some amazing pork dumplings with a soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce. One of the best I’ve had. The last leg of our tour was particularly interesting. Nom Wah Tea Parlor can be found on Doyers Street in lower Manhattan. One of the windiest streets in the city, I’d never even heard it, but it turns out a lot has happened there including a number of shootings due to the angle of the street. From the parlor we sampled an “original egg roll” that contained egg, chicken and vegetables and bit crunchier of an outside than normal egg rolls. It was really quite delicious.
All in all, Ahoy put on a mighty fine food tour. I learned about the culture and history of two very famous neighborhoods in Manahttan, and tasted some amazing samples of the best foods these areas have to offer.
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Photo: Andrew Lerner